This week, Bayer U.S. LLC Pharmaceuticals and the MedSurplus Alliance’s Kits4Life Initiative received the 2021 U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Corporate Citizen Award.
Kits4Life Founder Greg Folz believed early on in the potential of his idea — sending unused medical supplies from clinical trials to facilities that lacked them. Five years ago, when he first presented the idea at the 2016 Society of Clinical Research Sites Summit, he was approached by two men from the Democratic Republic of Congo who had been in the audience that day.
“No one else recognizes our plight, but you have,” one of them said. They explained that their community had lost hundreds of people to yellow fever a few years earlier, even though the community had received a million doses of the vaccine. The problem? They didn’t have the necessary syringes. Kits4Life was created precisely to solve problems like that.
A program of The Task Force’s MedSurplus Alliance (MSA), Kits4Life is a cross-sector initiative developed by the clinical research community to repurpose clinical trial supplies, lab kits, and equipment by donating them to health facilities in need of medical supplies. MSA launched Kits4life in 2020 in collaboration with Hospital Sisters Mission Outreach, based in Illinois, and Bayer.
Kits4Life began when nurses at a clinical trial site in Indiana lamented the standard practice of discarding unused lab kits and medical supplies. Prior to the Chamber awards ceremony, Folz recalled that the nurses told him it felt like a meaningless act to take and destroy perfectly good kits.
After winning an initial award for his Kits4Life idea, Folz originally considered finding a warehouse to store the supplies until he found the right match for someone who needed them. That’s when The Task Force’s MSA program got involved, bringing its history of establishing high standards for distribution of donated medical supplies.
The MSA has an accreditation program which offers donors a seal of trust to know that their donations will be redistributed to those in need according to WHO guidelines and with the highest level of excellence and respect.
“Accreditation is so key to [research] sponsors!” Folz said. Other MSA accredited members include Brother’s Brother, Dispensary of Hope, Medical Bridges, MedShare, MedWish, RX Outreach and SOS.
The initiative has sparked a tremendous spirit of collaboration throughout the life sciences industry, with others joining the effort. For example, Eli Lilly was the first to identify and donate bulk orders of surplus supplies and other contributors include LabCorp, Sanofi, Sanofi Espoir Foundation, Roche, Janssen, and SCRS.
“Kits4Life offers a responsible option that extends the useful life of a product and helps strengthen global healthcare by providing clinicians the resources they need to care for their patients,” said Lori Warrens, MSA Program Director.
Little by little, a paradigm shift is taking place.
“At Bayer in the US Kits4Life is now embedded as a normal clinical trial process,” said Mark Ryan, Bayer’s Head of Site Management, Americas Region, during the awards ceremony. “In my mind, Kits4Life is in its infancy. We are currently expanding it to our trials in countries around the world. Ultimately, I would like to see this as part of every clinical trial, run by any sponsor, CRO [Contract Research Organization, which provides clinical trial management services] or investigator.”
Folz and Warren agree that it is clear to donors that this is the right thing to do. The focus now is on making it as easy as possible for more people to get involved in this effort.