Local innovations from one of NZ’s largest pharmaceutical companies including the translation of asthma materials into te reo Māori, partnerships with aid groups, and increased access to vaccines through reduced pricing are the type of initiatives that have helped the company rank first place in the Access to Medicine Index for the fifth consecutive time, according to its NZ general manager.
The Index, a global initiative which is funded by Bill Gates’s charitable foundation and the UK and Dutch Governments is an independent measure of the top 20 pharmaceutical companies’ efforts to improve access to healthcare in developing countries. GSK has topped the Index, which ranks individual companies on their performance across seven categories, each time since its launch in 2008.
GSK’s NZ general manager, Anna Stove, says the company was recognised for its clear access to medicines strategy; leadership in research & development, pricing, manufacturing and distribution; and product donations.
Stove says innovations to increase access to medicines in NZ included the local respiratory team translating the Asthma Control Test – a widely used tool to measure asthma control – into te reo Māori.
“We know in New Zealand that patient outcomes for asthma are worse for Māori and as a company we wanted to ensure we were doing everything we could to better educate Māori patients, and their whanau on how their lives could be improved by appropriate use of medication,” says Stove.
The same company also donated more than $330,000 worth of critical medicines as part of a relief effort into Fiji following Cyclone Winstone.
In addition to the donation of medicines, GSK’s global health programmes team provided funding to Save the Children Australia who are leading the organisation’s response to this crisis.
Stove says funding provided by GSK supported the costs associated with running Child Friendly space for 4 – 6 weeks, in addition to paying to rebuild vital water, sanitation and hygiene facilities at schools.
Stove also points to the company’s commitment to provide better access to vaccines through reduced pricing in developing countries in Asia.
Commenting on the 2016 Index, GSK CEO Sir Andrew Witty says:
“For the last decade, our commitments to widening access to healthcare have been recognised by the Access to Medicine Index. This is testament to everyone at GSK, and our partners, who strive every day to research, develop and deliver innovative medicines and vaccines. These efforts mean that more children in the poorest countries are being immunised against deadly diseases; more patients can receive the HIV and asthma medicines they need; and essential healthcare is reaching the remotest communities.
“The fundamental changes we have made to our business model enable us to make our products as available and affordable as possible while generating the returns we need to sustain our business and invest in research. But we cannot stand still. Increasing access is a complex and ongoing challenge, which is reflected in this year’s Index being more demanding than ever. As a business, and an industry, we must push ourselves to go further and faster in strengthening access to healthcare. This is a challenge that we are ready and willing to take on.”
Since the last Index in 2014, GSK has taken further steps to widen access, including:
- Expanding the graduated approach to patents and intellectual property to widen access to medicines in the world’s poorest countries.
- Their malaria candidate vaccine received a positive scientific opinion from European regulators for use in the prevention of malaria in young children in sub-Saharan Africa.
- In an effort to widen access to dolutegravir – the company’s newest HIV medicine – the HIV business ViiV Healthcare extended its existing licence agreement for the adult formulation of dolutegravir with the Medicine Patent Pool to cover all remaining lower middle-income countries, meaning that an additional 270,000 people are covered by the licence which includes more than 94% of adults living with HIV in the developing world.
- Advancing their Africa Open Lab to support research into non-communicable diseases and collaborating with African universities to build skills and capabilities.
- Introducing equitable pricing strategies for more products, covering a broad range of diseases including HIV/AIDS, lower respiratory diseases, asthma and pertussis.
- Reaching 1.3 million children in some of the world’s poorest countries through their Save the Children partnership. This includes treating children for malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoea; and reaching children with vaccines.
Advancing research into potential new antibiotics and signing up to industry-wide commitments setting out commitments to reduce the development of antimicrobial resistance, invest in R&D and improve access to antibiotics.
These initiatives build on deep-rooted changes we have made to our business model to drive sustainable access and innovation; to encourage collaborative research into diseases that disproportionately affect developing countries; to support communities to strengthen their health systems; and form partnerships with governments, NGOs and other companies to amplify our efforts.
The 2016 Index described GSK as the most access-oriented company. GSK achieved an improved score on the 2014 Index and was ranked among the top three in all but one of the seven categories. The Index particularly recognised our efforts to implement equitable pricing strategies for more medicines and our long-standing commitment to developing products and technologies for the benefit of global health. The Index also recognised that we have significantly changed our commercial model to lead the industry in modernising the way we sell and market our medicines. We have stopped paying doctors to speak on our behalf and our representatives no longer have individual sales targets.
Since our submission for the 2016 Index was filed, we have taken further steps to strengthen access to medicines and vaccines. These include offering to extend our lowest price for pneumococcal vaccines to internationally recognised civil society organisations who are funding and delivering immunisation programmes for refugee communities where governments are unable to do so.