Accreditation Unique among U.S. Nonprofits for Safe Drug Handling, Industry Best Practices


National Association of Boards of Pharmacy’s “Verified-Accredited Wholesale Distributor” Designation Enables Only 50-State Program for Charitable Medications and Emergencies

Direct Relief has been reaccredited by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy©  (NABP©) as a Verified-Accredited Wholesale Distributor © (VAWD©), through the rigorous national accreditation program developed to help secure the integrity of U.S. drug supply chain, protect public health, and ensure compliance with all national and state licensure requirements, applicable statutes and regulations, and industry-leading practices.

The California-based nonprofit organization was the first U.S. nonprofit to obtain VAWD certification in 2009.  It remains the only nonprofit licensed to distribute prescription medications in all 50 U.S. states and conducts the country’s largest nonprofit charitable medicines program.  Three U.S. states require VAWD accreditation as a condition for obtaining a state license to distribute prescription medications.

“We were pleased when Direct Relief became the only nonprofit to obtain VAWD accreditation several years ago and we are pleased to have met the heightened standards that now exist,” said Direct Relief President and CEO Thomas Tighe. “The accreditation reflects a significant, sustained investment and Direct Relief’s commitment to meeting the highest standards of care, legal and regulatory compliance, and best industry practices – the standards do not change because they are done by a nonprofit organization on a charitable basis for people unable to pay.”

Direct Relief’s programs within the U.S. include providing medications and supplies free of charge to serve low-income uninsured patients at more than 1,000 nonprofit community health centers and clinics in all 50 states as well as extensive emergency preparedness and response activities involving prescription medications and other medical material.  More than 100 healthcare companies make product donations to Direct Relief for use in the organization’s humanitarian public-health programs.

“We recognized several years ago that, within the United States, no properly licensed nonprofit mechanism existed to mobilize and provide prescription medications nationwide when emergencies occurred, which, thankfully, Direct Relief is now able to do consistently and efficiently, as during Hurricane Sandy and even now in response to the ferocious storms and tornadoes hitting the Midwest,” said Tighe.

As described on the NABP website, “VAWD accreditation plays a pivotal role in preventing counterfeit drugs from entering the United States drug supply – it helps protect the public from drugs that have been contaminated, diverted, or counterfeited. The US supply of prescription drugs is produced and delivered to patients via a complex distribution path, and VAWD accreditation helps ensure that the wholesale distribution facility operates legitimately, is licensed in good standing, and is employing security and best practices for safely distributing prescription drugs from manufacturers to pharmacies and other institutions.”

While VAWD relates to the distribution of prescription medications within the United States, Direct Relief also uses the same information systems and operating procedures in providing humanitarian assistance — including prescription medications, vaccines, and nutritional supplements, and medical supplies — to more than 70 countries worldwide on an ongoing basis and during emergencies.

“The underlying concerns about public health, patient safety, and drug supply-chain integrity that make VAWD so important in the United States exist everywhere, particularly so in many developing countries that require international assistance but have fewer resources to devote to compliance,” said Tighe.  “Direct Relief’s unique-among-nonprofits experience building systems to obtain licensure in all 50 U.S. states and VAWD accreditation is enormously helpful in our international humanitarian health work and interactions with private donors, foreign governments, and of course patients – all of whom share the same concerns.”

Among other awards and recognitions, Direct Relief received the 2011 Peter F. Drucker Award for Nonprofit Innovation for its aggressive use of commercial technologies to speed, enhance, and bring efficiency and transparency to humanitarian health services for people in need.

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