The Magazine of Corporate Responsibility

GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Novartis Top Access to Medicine Report

by James Hyatt

GlaxoSmithKline, Merck & Co. and Novartis are the top-ranked pharmaceutical companies in the second, and latest, Access to Medicine Foundation report.

Medicine_FeatureThe group's Index seeks to rank pharmaceutical companies based on their efforts "to enhance global access to medicines."

The Access to Medicine Index ranks 20 of the world's largest drug companies; the report said Gilead Sciences and Pfizer of the U.S. were "most improved" in the ranking while Bayer (Germany), Bristol-Myers Squibb (U.S.), Merck KGaA (Germany) and Novo Nordisk (Denmark) fell.

A separate ranking for seven generic drug makers was topped by Ranbaxy Laboratories and Cipla of India.  However, the generic analysis was hampered by "the general low level of disclosure and responsiveness to data requests," the report said.

The report is available here.

Wim Leereveld, chairman and founder of the foundation, said pharmaceutical companies since the earlier 2008 report "have shown far greater willingness to open up." And the greater openness "has brought to light increased implementation efforts."

The Index tracks 106 strategic indicators and seven technical areas. And it covers 33 diseases, up from 24 two years ago.

The rankings access performance in seven technical areas:
--general access to medicine management
--public policy and market influence
--research and development for index diseases
--equitable pricing, manufacturing and distribution
--patents and licensing
--capability advancement in product development and distribution
--product donations and philanthropic activities

Each technical area is then examined for commitments, transparency, performance and innovation.

The Index addresses the top 14 "Neglected Tropical Diseases," top 10 communicable diseases, and top 10 non-communicable diseases in the 88 countries classified as "Low and Medium Human Development Countries" at the United Nations.

The report cited particular problematic medical areas including:
--need for new pharmaceutical products to address neglected tropical diseases
--lack of viable markets for pediatric HIV/AIDS drugs
--need for more affordability of existing medicines
--need for more accessibility of existing treatments
--increasing health burden of non-communicable diseases including cardiovascular ailments, cancer and diabetes.

Here's a graph of the companies in the Index:

Access to Medicine Index 2010

Access to Medicine Index 2010

Photo courtesy of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation / Brent Stirton

James Hyatt, a retired reporter and editor for The Wall Street Journal, has been writing about business ethics and social responsibility issues since 2005.

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