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GSK tops Access to Medicines Index for fifth time running

Leads J&J and Novartis in 'needs-orientation' while Roche and Astellas lag
GSK

GlaxoSmithKline has once again bested its big pharma peers when it comes to improving access to its products.

The company topped the Access to Medicines Index for the fifth consecutive time after the biannual good practice report found it “the most access-oriented company” of the top 20 pharma firms.

GSK has maintained its ranking thanks to a series of solo and collaborative R&D projects targeting high-priority product gaps in low- and middle-income countries.

This is despite the lower commercial returns involved and the firm was one of six companies found to consistently address gaps in local healthcare infrastructures.

The Access to Medicines ranking largely reflects this trend as GSK, Johnson & Johnson, Merck KGaA and Merck & Co take the top five places, joined by AstraZeneca, which climbed eight places to rank seventh.

The Index also cited GSK's product donations - where it scored four out of a possible five points - and voluntary licensing, such as ViiV Healthcare's agreement with the Medicine Patent Pool to cover HIV drug dolutegravir in developing countries, as examples of good practice.

However, the UK-based pharma company was found to fall back in compliance, where it picked up less than half the available points. The primary cause for GSK faltering in this area was the bribery and corruption scandal uncovered in 2013 that saw the firm fined $487m by the Chinese authorities.

The report did, however, commend the company for its steps to prevent such breaches in future, which include eliminating individual sales targets and implementing a new revolving-door hiring policy to alleviate any conflict of interest risk.

GSK's chief executive Sir Andrew Witty, said: “This is a testament to everyone at GSK, and our partners, who strive every day to research 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.”

Established in 2008, the Index is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in partnership with the UK and Dutch governments and aims to encourage big pharma to play its part in delivering medicines to the two billion people who currently go without.

Only 5% of products covered by pricing strategies currently meet affordability criteria in priority access countries, according to the 2016 Index, despite companies increasingly waiving patent rights in priority regions.

Large, middle-income countries are particularly affected, with places like Mexico, Ukraine and Thailand that house the majority of the world's poor still excluded from access schemes and licensing.

Seeking to address this, the Index found that collaborative research initiatives appeared most effective in engaging pharma in developing high-need, low-incentive therapies, with 67% of R&D projects in this area conducted in partnership.

Once again GSK is leading the pack, with 32 pipeline projects in this area, followed by AbbVie and Johnson & Johnson with 19 and 17 respectively.

Witty added: “As a business, and an industry, we must push ourselves to go further and faster in strengthening access to healthcare. This is a challenge we are willing a ready to take on.”

The Access to Medicines Index 2016

Access to Medicines Index 2016 table

Article by
Rebecca Clifford

16th November 2016

From: Healthcare

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