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Pharmaceutical industry doing more to improve access to medicine in developing countries; performance on some aspects lags

The world’s leading pharmaceutical companies are doing more to improve access to medicine in developing countries, with a raft of new initiatives, scale-ups and innovations over the last two years. However, the industry struggles to perform well in some practices that matter, according to the 2014 Access to Medicine Index.

GSK tops the Index for the fourth time. This is driven by robust performance across most areas, with several innovative practices. It has an innovative business model focused on Africa, a large relevant portfolio, a large share of its pipeline dedicated to relevant diseases, and numerous access-oriented intellectual property sharing partnerships.

Novo Nordisk has made the most progress, improving in five of the seven areas the Index focuses on. This has resulted in a remarkable leap from 6th to 2nd place, which is partly due to the fact that its access activities are well managed, integrated into its business strategy, and well targeted to local needs. It also applies access-oriented pricing strategies to diabetes products in all Least Developed Countries. Eisai has risen steadily with each Index, and ranks 11th, up four places from 15th in 2012.

Sanofi and Pfizer fell down the rankings most significantly, while Astellas, Daiichi Sankyo and Takeda remain at the bottom of the league.

“After sharpening what and how we measure, we are now able to draw a much clearer picture of the industry’s strengths, weaknesses, progress and struggles, and what it takes to be a leader in access to medicine,” said Wim Leereveld, founder and CEO of the Access to Medicine Index. “No company is in the top five in all areas we analyse, but the leaders tend to perform well across most of them, even though they differ in their focus. Top performers innovate constantly, and usually have to innovate in several areas to maintain their position.”

The Access to Medicine Index is an independent initiative that ranks the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies according to what they are doing for the millions of people in developing countries who do not have reliable access to safe, effective and affordable medicines and vaccines. It is published every two years.

It scores companies on their performance, innovation, transparency and commitments across seven areas of activity considered key to improving access to medicine. The companies are graded on 95 factors covering these areas, including product research and development, to what extent they facilitate or resist efforts to create generic versions of their drugs, and how they approach pricing in developing countries. Lobbying activities, marketing ethics and product donations and other philanthropic activities are also evaluated.

“Companies that have the biggest market presence are not necessarily at the top of the Index. We found that four companies currently produce 50 percent of all the relevant products. Sanofi produces the most, followed by Novartis, GSK, then Pfizer. However, they are scattered across the Index,” said Jayasree K. Iyer, Head of Research at the Access to Medicine Index. “This means that what defines where companies rank has less to do with how many relevant products they have, than with what they do with their products and expertise. We have found that this, in turn, tends to be closely linked to the importance given to access at the top of the company.”