These problems cannot be an excuse for inaction. Rather, they should indicate where action is most needed.
Despite significant progress over the last decade, we need to do more to increase access to medicines.
The first step is to prioritize areas where it is possible to make the most difference through our business activities, skills and resources.
In our case, this means initiatives to improve affordability and to conduct and encourage more investment in R&D for diseases of the developing world.
GSK is contributing to global health through preferential pricing of our medicines and vaccines. We are investing in and pursuing a flexible open innovation approach to R&D that targets diseases particularly affecting the developing world. We are supporting community investment activities and innovative partnerships that foster effective healthcare.
Additionally, inspired new funding mechanisms encourage the private sector to engage in medicine and vaccine development for the developing world.
For years we have offered our vaccines at a tiered price – meaning that the least developed countries in the world pay as much as 90 percent less than developed areas such as the US and Europe. This model has enabled us to provide 80 percent of our vaccine volume to the developing world, invest more into R&D for diseases of the developing world, and focus a third of our vaccine pipeline on these diseases that disproportionately affect resource poor countries.
This year, a new funding mechanism, the GAVI Alliance’s newly launched Advance Market Commitment (AMC) for pneumococcal vaccine, is a great example of effective partnership. GSK and Pfizer have each committed to supplying up to 300 million doses of their pneumo vaccines over the next decade to GAVI countries, a very sizeable, long-term contract that will help protect up to 100 million children on GSK’s side alone. Though the program is still in its infancy, the AMC is working to close the time gap between access in developed countries compared to the world’s poorest countries.
We are starting to see how innovative pricing models in vaccines can be adapted to improve access to medicines too. Last year, GSK announced a tiered pricing structure for drugs around the world. This means we reduced our prices for patented medicines in the least developed countries (LDCs) so that they would be no higher than 25% of developed world prices. Since that time, we’ve seen significant increases in uptake for the majority of products following the price decreases. In some cases, sales are eight times higher than they were the previous year.
We have also received feedback from some physicians indicating that more patients are using these medicines and that patient compliance with the prescribed dose has improved in some cases.
Yet our focus on improving access is not limited only to the LDCs. The so-called emerging markets represent an enormously diverse group of countries that have experienced explosive economic growth in recent years. Rapidly expanding populations and emerging middle classes make these countries an important source of future business growth for health care companies. Nevertheless, the vast differences in a person’s ability to pay for health care - often an out-of-pocket cost in these parts of the world – have been a barrier to accessible health care.