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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Drug companies helped drive an almost 18 percent increase in corporate philanthropy last year as they gave away medicine to poor Americans still struggling in a rough economy, a survey found on Thursday.
The Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy poll of 110 companies found they gave $13 billion in cash and products last year as the United States began to emerge from recession.
While 40 percent of the 110 companies -- polled annually for the past four years -- boosted their giving last year by more than 10 percent, another 17 percent decreased their giving by more than 10 percent compared to 2009.
"We're seeing companies build back," said Alison Rose, the committee's manager of standards and measurement. "From 2008 to 2009 we saw 60 percent of companies decrease giving, so now from 2009 to 2010 we're seeing 65 percent increase giving."
She said more than half of the $2 billion increase in corporate philanthropy last year came from pharmaceutical companies donating medicine through their Patient Assistance Programs and investing in other initiatives.
"One of the reasons we have seen for increased giving across the board has been increased funding to serve basic needs in communities where companies are working, and pharmaceutical companies in particular are in a really important position to do so," Rose said.
Companies in the consumer staples, financial, industrials and information technology sectors also contributed to the increase in 2010 corporate philanthropy, the poll said.
The companies polled said corporate financial performance frequently determined giving budgets. In 2010, 70 percent of the companies surveyed reported increased profit.
Rose said companies also reported giving more than planned in their disaster funding budgets in 2010 as budgets were stretched by events such as the Haiti earthquake and the floods in Pakistan.
The survey found 53 percent gave more in 2010 than they did in 2007 -- when total giving by the 110 companies was $10.5 billion before the onset of the global financial crisis.
But while 25 percent of the companies increased their giving by a quarter or more last year compared to 2007, a further 21 percent reduced their giving by at least a quarter.
"We were struck by the divergent paths," Rose said. "This shows that while some companies have been able to surpass pre-crisis levels, others are still in a period of rebuilding."
Editing by Mark Egan and Eric Beech