Pharma Competes to Improve Medicines Access in Developing Countries

June 24, 2010
Stephanie Sutton
ePT--the Electronic Newsletter of Pharmaceutical Technology

European pharmaceutical companies are outdoing their US counterparts when it comes to making medicines available to developing countries, according to the Access to Medicine Index, which analyzes and ranks the access to medicine efforts of the world's largest pharma companies.

European pharmaceutical companies are outdoing their US counterparts when it comes to making medicines available to developing countries, according to the Access to Medicine Index, which analyzes and ranks the access-to-medicine efforts of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies.

The index, established by the international Access to Medicine Foundation, encourages drug companies to compete in improving access to medicine for societies in need, and also offers investors and others a way to compare social responsibility records. Companies are assessed in management, influence, research and development, pricing, patenting, capability, and philanthropy.

The leader of the 2010 index is GlaxoSmithKline (London), which is one of the six European companies that made it into the index’s top ten. Although the US lags behind slightly with only four companies (Merck & Co. Inc. (Whitehouse Station, NJ), Gilead Sciences (Foster City, CA), Johnson & Johnson (New Brusnwick, NJ) and Abbott Laboratories (South Pasadena, CA), respectively) included the top ten, it is an improvement on the results of the first index, published in 2008, with only three US companies being included. The lead of European companies is also shrinking in terms of scores.

“I believe the index can encourage both originator and generics companies to increase their contributions. In fact, we now have good evidence that the index is working: several companies clearly made significant efforts to improve their performance and ranking in the 2010 index,” Wim Leereveld, Chairman and Founder of the Access to Medicine Foundation, explained in the index report.

For instance, a press statement highlights Gilead Sciences and Pfizer (New York) as moving strongly up in the rankings, which moved up from 15 to 4 and 17 to 11, respectively. The statement also adds that pharmaceutical companies are providing more insight into their policies and actions to increase access to medicines in developing countries. Additionally, a statement released at the end of 2009 also revealed that some pharmaceutical companies had begun to “align their corporate responsibility programmes with Index criteria.”

Since 2008, the Access to Medicine Foundation reported a number of trends, including the increased sharing of intellectual property such as compound libraries for research purposes; an increase in the number of research collaborations targeting areas of need; and the development of several promising innovative approaches to access. For the high-ranking originator companies, the foundation also noticed increased collaboration with generic-drug companies, especially through non-exclusive voluntary licensing arrangements.