MEDICATIONS FOR THE MISSION
By Dr. Helen Walker, MD
This Friday, 45 volunteers, including medical specialists, occupational therapists, teachers, interpreters and others, will head out to Atima and Choloma, providing medical care to about 3000 adults and children in these two remote mountain villages in northwestern Honduras. We’ll use our carefully packed medications to treat all sorts of problems ranging from skin rashes to life-threatening conditions such as acute asthma, stroke, infections and severe allergic reactions.
At the close of our annual mission last year, an energized team of volunteers gathered in a school classroom in Atima and carefully inventoried all of the medications that remained. This list provided important information for determining the amount and type of medications that would be needed for our subsequent mission. Any medications that were not given to individual patients seen during our busy week were then donated to the local clinic.
The money that we spend on medications is considerable so it is important to assess what we may need and what we want to donate to the local clinic. After deciding which medications were required for this year’s mission, we contacted several medical supply companies in order to obtain pricing and we created a detailed list that compared the costs for individual drugs. This year we bought medications from two medical supply companies, one of which is located in the Honduras.
It is interesting to compare costs of medications from the two countries. For example, a bottle of 100 Benadryl tabs from our US company costs less than $2.00. However if we bought it in the Honduras, it would be almost $20 for the same number of tablets. In contrast, some medications cost much less in the Honduras, notably asthma inhalers. What costs us $21 per inhaler in the states is less than $4 each in Honduras.
April marks the beginning of our group’s “packing” meetings. Once a week our dedicated group of volunteers meets to help pack medications and supplies for the June mission. We pack some of the most frequently used medications in baggies that we label in Spanish with the name of the medication and directions for use. We fill these with at least a month’s worth of ibuprofen, vitamins, antacids or acetominophen. We frequently give these nonprescription medications to our patients so that they can have them available to use as needed. Although we take these medications for granted here in the states, our patients’ access to them is limited in the more remote Honduran villages.