Mumbai Based doctor couple of Marcus and Raina Ranney collected and distributed many unused medicines to help others who can’t afford them amid the skyrocketing hike in prices during the second wave.
For exploring the awareness and disposal practices of unused medicines in the general public, a survey was conducted and documented in a journal named ‘Current Drug Safety’ of 2020. The report indicated almost all (92.6%) of the consumers threw away the expired medicines after storing them for days. There have been instances where the pharmacy store also refused to take back those medicines. Thus, the pile of unused drugs neither benefit the environment nor the people who need them.
Dr Marcus Ranney and his wife Dr Raina Ranney identified this issue during the pandemic. The couple was pretty active at the frontline since the beginning of the pandemic. But during the second wave, Dr Raina came across a COVID positive report of one of the staff family members. At that moment, she realized that the medicines are barely affordable anymore. Combatting COVID is way more difficult for the unprivileged than it seems. It triggered them to start the MedsforMore organization. It is a citizen-led initiative to collect unexpired COVID-19 medicines and distribute them amongst the unprivileged.
The initial operations included reaching out to people and delivering the collected unused medicines to the rural areas and some NGOs. Now the functioning is streamlined to a very technology-driven multi-stakeholder platform. Dr Ranney explains, “There are two options available on our website – donate medicines or become a local area ambassador. If you want to donate medicines, you can register your details on the site. Later an Uber cab will pick it up from your doorstep and deliver it to various collection centres across some cities. It is then dispatched to our NGO partners, who check the medicines, pack them and ship them to Primary health centres and rural areas.”
The organization does not accept any injectables, bottles, and syrups. The team actively collects symptomatic medications from mild and moderate patients of COVID. Drugs like Paracetamols, antibiotics, ibuprofen, magnesium, and zinc tablets are collected. Devices like pulse oximeters, thermometers, non-contaminated inhalers, and disposable oxygen mask sets (unused) are collected.
The initiative has a core organizing team of eight people. These eight people look after a particular city where there is a team of local volunteers. Below it is residential level and office level volunteers who make it an entire ecosystem of thousands of volunteers. Anyone who wants to donate the medicines has to fulfil certain checkpoints and should not be involved in any counterfeit. Our NGO partner then checks the received parcel and channels them for distribution. With a proper prescription, they send it free of cost to the needy.
He explains two benefits of this initiative. First, the usage of available resources goes a long way in reducing the healthcare cost for many people. Second, there is an additional environmental benefit. From garbage, the unused medicines make their way into the water tables or landfills. So the biomedical waste is reduced by preventing them from being thrown away.
Marcus is handling the technology, stakeholder engagement, and legal compliances part for the team for now. He has also been active in bringing the NGOs and delivery partners onboard to run the operations seamlessly round the clock. “To date, we have collected 250+ kg of medicines. The sentiment behind this initiative is to perform small acts of kindness to create a wave for spreading a positive change,” He mentions with pride. “It is not about burning out your pockets but donating something you already have. The positive response is beyond our expectations and all of that at the cost of just sharing.”