Drugmakers ‘inching ahead’ in increasing access to drugs worldwide, with GlaxoSmithKline leading the pack – Endpoints News

Top drug de­vel­op­ers are “inch­ing ahead” in im­prov­ing ac­cess to much-need­ed drugs around the world — an is­sue that has been un­der­scored by the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic. But there’s still more work to do, Ac­cess to Med­i­cine Foun­da­tion ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Jayas­ree Iy­er said.

Every two years, the Ac­cess to Med­i­cines In­dex ranks the top 20 biotechs lead­ing the push for bet­ter ac­cess to med­i­cines in low- and mid­dle-in­come coun­tries. This year’s re­port, pub­lished Tues­day, looks at drug ac­cess in 106 coun­tries.

Glax­o­SmithK­line led the pack for an­oth­er year, close­ly trailed by No­var­tis. John­son & John­son ranked third, with Pfiz­er and Sanofi right be­hind it.

Jayas­ree Iy­er

But al­though com­pa­nies are “inch­ing ahead” in their ef­forts, we’re still far from where we need to be, Iy­er said in a state­ment.

“… Ac­tiv­i­ty still con­cen­trates on too few dis­eases and too few coun­tries, thus ben­e­fit­ing on­ly a frac­tion of the peo­ple in need,” Iy­er said. “What is more, most of the ef­fort is be­ing made by on­ly a small num­ber of firms, cre­at­ing a frag­ile sit­u­a­tion where any re­treat could have dire con­se­quences.”

The rank­ings were pub­lished as re­ports emerge that it could be years be­fore those in low-in­come coun­tries get Covid-19 vac­cines. Last month, Reuters ac­cessed in­ter­nal pa­pers re­gard­ing the WHO, CEPI and Gavi-led CO­V­AX pro­gram that warned a lack of funds, sup­ply risks and com­plex con­trac­tu­al arrange­ments could leave those in poor na­tions with­out vac­cines un­til 2024.

“Too many peo­ple lack ac­cess to in­no­v­a­tive health prod­ucts emerg­ing from R&D pipelines,” Iy­er said.

In a state­ment, she en­cour­aged com­pa­nies to “be­come a cat­a­lyst, not a bar­ri­er” to eq­ui­table drug ac­cess. And the in­dus­try ap­pears to be mov­ing in the right di­rec­tion.

Eight of the 20 com­pa­nies ranked in the in­dex are now de­vel­op­ing sys­tem­at­ic ap­proach­es to ac­cess plan­ning — a vast in­crease from the sin­gle com­pa­ny do­ing so (No­var­tis) when the last re­port came out in 2018. But that still leaves 12 com­pa­nies with­out strate­gies for bet­ter ac­cess. And less than half of key prod­ucts con­trolled by the 20 com­pa­nies are of­fered through ac­cess strate­gies in low­er-mid­dle or low-in­come coun­tries.

To take a clos­er look, the foun­da­tion ze­roed in on 199 med­i­cines, vac­cines, di­ag­nos­tics and vec­tor con­trol prod­ucts deemed “es­sen­tial for a well-func­tion­ing health­care sys­tem.” Of those, on­ly 13% of prod­ucts that need to be ad­min­is­tered by health care pro­fes­sion­als (like in­jectable treat­ments for can­cer) are cov­ered by ac­cess strate­gies in at least one low-in­come coun­try. And for self-ad­min­is­tered meds (like pills) that num­ber is 26%, ac­cord­ing to the in­dex.

Just un­der half (42%) of the self-ad­min­is­tered and pro­fes­sion­al­ly ad­min­is­tered prod­ucts weren’t tied to ac­cess strate­gies in any of the 106 coun­tries the in­dex eval­u­at­ed.

“This re­veals a wide­spread lack of con­sid­er­a­tion for how peo­ple liv­ing in these coun­tries will gain ac­cess to these prod­ucts, which are large­ly con­trolled by the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies in ques­tion,” the re­port states.

The com­pa­ny with the most can­di­dates cov­ered by ac­cess plans is GSK, which has com­mit­ted to de­vel­op­ing ac­cess plans for all projects that yield pos­i­tive Phase II re­sults. Pfiz­er, which ranked third for most can­di­dates cov­ered by ac­cess strate­gies, be­gins such plan­ning for all prod­ucts two years be­fore launch, ac­cord­ing to the foun­da­tion.

While such ini­tia­tives are a step in the right di­rec­tion, the foun­da­tion point­ed out that on­ly small num­bers of peo­ple per coun­try are ben­e­fit­ing from them.

“Af­ter years of en­cour­ag­ing ac­cess plan­ning, we are now see­ing a strate­gic shift in this di­rec­tion by phar­ma com­pa­nies. This could rad­i­cal­ly change how fast ac­cess to new prod­ucts is achieved — if com­pa­ny lead­er­ship is de­ter­mined to en­sure peo­ple liv­ing in low- and mid­dle-in­come coun­tries are not last in line,” Iy­er said.

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