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Angie Drakulich was editorial director of Pharmaceutical Technology.
The Global Health Progress collaboration works to improve healthcare delivery in the developing world.
In mid-2008, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA), and other research and development pharmaceutical associations, established the Global Health Progress (GHP) initiative. Supported largely by biopharmaceutical companies around the world, GHP is built on the concept that improving healthcare in the developing world requires multifaceted approaches and solutions and that therefore, partnerships and collaborations are the best way to tackle the growing challenge of providing access to medicines and improving health in less developed countries.
Today, GHP's work with governments, public health leaders, universities, foundations, and other stakeholders, is underpinned by more than 300 innovative programs worldwide, backed by R&D pharmaceutical companies. Each program is aimed at finding sustainable solutions to improving healthcare in the developing world. Specifically, GHP member company programs focus on four core areas: strengthening healthcare systems, combating neglected tropical diseases (NTDs)*, pursuing innovative solutions (e.g., R&D efforts), improving access to medicines, and fighting the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis. Member company programs, based in almost 150 countries, currently reach more hundreds of millions of people each year and help to train more than 50,000 healthcare workers annually, according to the GHP website.
For example, one program that falls under GHP is EPIVAC, taken from the words epidemiology and vaccinology. The one-year program focuses on providing professional training for doctors in West Africa. Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccine subsidiary of sanofi-aventis, is a major supporter.
Since its establishment, GHP has also helped to develop a large number of case studies for global health stakeholders. With partners such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the TDR Tropical Disease Research organization (the UNICEF/UNDP/World Bank/WHO Special Program for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases), among others, the case studies provide best practices on subjects such as disease prevention and strengthening healthcare systems. The case studies are available online at www.casestudiesforglobalhealth.org. GHP is also working with the UN Economic and Social Council and World Health Organization on various educational forums and programs.
The greatest challenges in improving health outcomes in the developing world are "the sheer scale of the task, the numbers of people involved, and the poverty of the affected countries," says Guy Willis, director of communications for IFPMA.
For example, biopharmaceutical companies have donated medications for NTDs valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and in sub-Saharan Africa, these donations have provided more than 600 million courses of treatments and helped to lower the residual cost of an effective program to fight NTDs to less than $0.40 per person per year, according to GHP. Still, more funds and medications are needed daily.
"Our industry's contribution, although substantial, has to be set alongside other major contributions, from intergovernmental bodies, national governments of rich, poor, and middle income countries, philanthropic foundations, and other NGOs," explains Willis. "Where each party contributes, it usually does so in ways that make sense. While the overall effort is unprecedented in its size and ambition, there are still unmet needs and the approach is fragmented, being built largely on disease-specific foundations."
Going forward, Willis notes that it may be worth looking at how resources are allocated across different health needs. Mark Grayson, of PhRMA's international issues office, adds that, "Many programs from governments, foundations, and companies overlap but do not necessarily match exactly the health agendas that each country has set out. We need to continue to search out better ways to coordinate programs so that they will benefit as many people as possible and not put excessive burdens on country health ministries."
CSR and sustainability forum
With so many programs around the world, the GHP website (globalhealthprogress.org) allows users to search by disease, country, or organization all of the global healthcare efforts underway by the biopharmaceutical industry.
*NTDs are primarily infectious diseases that thrive in impoverished settings, especially in the heat and humidity of tropical climates. More than 1 billion people are affected by one or more NTD, according to WHO.