AbbVie, Pfizer, Novartis and more pledge millions in COVID-19 disaster relief

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Pharma companies are pitching in big money for relief funds for healthcare workers and communities affected by COVID-19. (Getty Images)

Pfizer, AbbVie, Novartis and other pharma companies are pledging millions in COVID-19 relief funds to help healthcare workers, patients and communities. 

Monday, Pfizer announced $40 million in both cash and grants for medical and community needs in the U.S. and around the world. In the U.S., emergency relief funds will go to government public health organizations and nonprofit community health organizations, while grants will be awarded to community health clinics for immediate and long-term needs of healthcare workers involved the COVID-19 response. Pfizer, along with Eli Lilly and Merck, previously announced a program to allow employees with medical and lab expertise to volunteer with local healthcare systems.

Last week, AbbVie pledged $35 million in a COVID-19 relief package—its largest disaster donation to date—and encouraged other companies follow suit.

Working through established partners, AbbVie’s contribution to International Medical Corps will build 20 field hospitals to help with surge capacity at overburdened hospitals in cities across the U.S. including Boston, Chicago, New York and New Orleans. It will also fund Feeding America’s effort to ramp up food assistance and delivery to underserved groups, including seniors, around the country. In Europe, the AbbVie donation will be spent on providing personal protective equipment (PPE), oxygen concentrators and ventilators in the hardest-hit European countries.

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“We’re hopeful that because of the scale of the contribution that we serve as an example for other donors contemplating what they should do and how they should get involved in the response because the needs are so significant and they’re growing by the hour. We’d really like to see more of our peers across industries come to the table with commitments of this size or bigger,” Melissa Walsh, vice president of corporate responsibility and global philanthropy at AbbVie, said.

AbbVie included a flexible $5 million fund for applications for grants of up to $1 million each from any organization helping people affected by the pandemic. Just a few hours after posting the application online, AbbVie had more than a dozen requests, Walsh said.

With pharma companies such as Pfizer, AbbVie and others (see below) donating money to support patients and healthcare professionals—as well as medicine, supplies and resources—the COVID-19 crisis represents an opportunity to turn around the dismal public perception of the industry. With widespread involvement across the spectrum from testing to treatments to vaccines, experts say there is an opportunity to showcase drugmakers' dedication to research, innovation and philanthropy. 

"This is a time that shows everything that pharma stands for and leaning into doing what’s right for patients is so much what of what’s happening in our world right now," said Jennifer O'Dwyer, Evoke president, North America.

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Other pharma companies that have also announced relief funds for COVID-19 include:

The Novartis COVID-19 Response Fund will donate $20 million in grants to support public health initiatives with an accelerated global approval process for quick disbursement of funds up to $1 million each. Novartis listed specific interest in healthcare infrastructure, new community programs and digital platform solutions.

GlaxoSmithKline chipped in $10 million to the relief fund established by the U.N. Foundation and World Health Organization. The COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund will support efforts to prevent, detect and manage the pandemic, including providing medical supplies such as PPE to health workers.

Eli Lilly, through its Lilly Foundation, pledged $500,000 to the United Way of Central Indiana's $16.5 million economic relief fund to help organizations who serve families and individuals affected by COVID-19. Lilly's headquarters is in Indianapolis. 

The Biogen Foundation committed $10 million in relief funds, which includes funding for groups in its headquarter home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, such as the mayor's relief fund and the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT for diagnostic work expansion. Biogen's overall donation is being split between non-profits in the U.S. (70%) that includes Boston and North Carolina area medical efforts, hospitals and food programs, while the other 30% will go to the global relief efforts of the International Medical Corps and the Red Cross.

Astellas Pharma US and the Astellas Global Health Foundation pledged $2 million in relief funds to several causes including Americares, the American Red Cross and Direct Relief to help with those group's emergency efforts in the U.S. and around the world.

Amgen committed $12.5 million to support emergency response efforts to individual communities, patient-focused organizations and international relief efforts through Direct Relief and International Medical Corps. In addition, the Amgen Foundation will match donations made by Amgen employees around the world who contribute their own funds. 

Gilead Sciences has launched a $20 million fund to support relief organizations including $1 million each to nearby Gilead and Kite headquarter communities in San Mateo and Los Angeles counties affected by the novel coronavirus pandemic. A Gilead spokesperson said the funding will go to organizations it has existing donor relationships with including cancer groups and HIV-community groups. Gilead also started a campaign to match employee donations to three global relief organizations.

Takeda will donate more than $6.25 million dollars which includes $4 million to the American Red Cross, $2 million to the mayor's relief fund in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and $250,000 to the town of Lexington’s emergency fund.Takeda will also match its employees' contributions to the Red Cross.

Johnson & Johnson pledged $50 million in funds to support frontline workers—doctors, nurses, midwives and community health workers—around the world who are working to treat patients in the global fight against COVID-19.

The Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation donated more than $6 million in funding which includes $2.5 million to human service organizations and patient support groups that are providing food services, critical education and aid to vulnerable populations in communities around the U.S.

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