It looks as though pharma is following GlaxoSmithKline’s lead in increasing efforts to provide people in developing countries with access to needed medications. GlaxoSmithKline (GSK, London), led by CEO Andrew Witty, has been on the forefront of this effort for some time—its largest contribution being the availability to the public of 13,500 malaria compounds for research and development (see back story, “GSK Promotes Open Innovation, Help for Developing Countries”).This month, the Access to Medicine Foundation released its second annual Access to Medicines Index, which ranks the access to medicine efforts of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies. Companies included in the index (27 total, of which 20 are innovator companies and 7 are generic companies) are classified by the UN Development Program as having low or medium levels of human development. The index covers 33 priority diseases.
According to the report, all the companies included in this year’s index have improved their “transparency, performance and commitments to access to medicine” during the past two years. Generic companies (e.g., Cipla, Dr. Reddy’s, Mylan), in particular, have increased research activities to adapt existing products to the needs of developing countries and increased collaboration with originator companies.
The overall top 10 companies in the 2010 index are: GSK, Merck & Co. Inc., Novartis AG, Gilead Sciences, sanofi-aventis, Roche Holdings, AstraZeneca, Novo Nordisk, Johnson & Johnson, and Abbott Laboratories. Only four of the top 10 are based in the US (Merck, Gilead, Johnson, Abbott). Companies are ranked on indicators including management, public policy, research, pricing, patents, capacity, and donations. The report goes into more detail, ranking accompanies according to each performance area (see the full report).
The report notes that there has been an overall increase in sharing of intellectual property and R&D collaborations targeting drugs in need (see related story, “Pharma Competes to Improve Medicines Access in Developing Countries”) .
The biotech world is also taking action on the access-to-medicines front. At its May 2010 convention, the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) announced a policy statement on “Options for Increasing Access to Medicines in the development World.” BIO recognizes in the statement that more should be done to address the global challenge of meeting health needs that are prevalent in the developing world, including “developing products for diseases that disproportionately affect people in the developing world” and “increasing access to such products.” To achieve these goals, the organization outlines a few approaches that could be taken, including: when entering into license agreements, explore creative strategies that help expand access to medicines in developing countries; as part of R&D efforts—work to identify compounds or technologies that can have useful applications in the developing world; participate in partnerships to develop medicines and technologies for the developing world; and explore ways to overcome non-price barriers that hinder such access. BIO plans to soon publish in appendix to list specific company activities in this regard.
Of note, Witty’s latest move is to call for a new dialogue between governments and the pharmaceutical industry in Europe. He is launching this effort in his role as president of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) to increase access to and affordability of European medicines—especially those that target unmet needs—and to promote innovation (see related story, “EFPIA Calls for New Dialogue on Medicines”).