New Index Assesses Ethical Performance of Big Pharma
Pharmaceutical companies' policies towards providing low cost medicine to the majority world
Last month saw the on-line launch of the Access to Medicine Foundation's ranking of how ethically pharmaceutical companies perform towards developing countries.
The world’s largest pharmaceutical companies differ strongly in their efforts to provide millions of people in low-income countries with better access to affordable drugs and vaccines, according to the Netherlands-based Foundation. While some major companies are making solid strides, for example by developing new medicines against previously neglected diseases, others are lagging behind.
The Access to Medicine Index is designed primarily as a tool for investors, allowing investment funds to integrate the ethical perfomance of pharmaceutical companies in this crucial area into their investment decisions. According to Wim Leereveld, who chairs the independent, not-for-profit Foundation, 12 fund managers - together responsible for investing assets worth $1.2 trillion - have welcomed the launch of the Index.
According to Matthew Kiernan, CEO of Innovest Strategic Value Advisors, which carried out research behind the Index, strong ethical policies on access to medecine are indicative of strong overall performance. “Managing access to medicine is a complex and daunting challenge," sats Kiernan. "We view companies who do it best as better managed and more far-sighted overall, and therefore more attractive to strategic, long-term investors".
The Access to Medicine Index rates dozens of indicators grouped into eight main criteria. The ranking looks at criteria such as whether companies have a strategy to help people in poor countries get medicines; have used global trade rules to hinder countries claiming rights to generic medicines; transfer technology to poor countries; price drugs fairly; donate drugs; and fund research into drugs for poor countries. The methodology was developed after consultations with representatives from governments, research, NGOs and drug companies.
The Index assessment gives top ranking to the UK's GlaxoSmithKline as the current industry leader in improving access to drugs and vaccines. In second place is the Danish Novo Nordisk followed by Merck & Co. (USA), Novartis (Switzerland), and Sanofi-Aventis (France).