Biogen Idec and partner Swedish Orphan Biovitrum have pledged to donate a whopping one billion international units (IUs) of clotting factor to treat haemophilia in the developing world.

Initially, the companies will provide up to 500 million IUs to the World Federation of Hemophilia over five years and the other 500 million will be made available for future distribution by the end of the decade. According to the WFH, 400,000 people worldwide are living with haemophilia and more than 300,000 live in areas where there is limited access to diagnosis and treatment.

The donation should enable doctors to treat more than 75,000 joint bleeding episodes and over 2,000 life-threatening bleeds as well as conduct thousands of elective surgical procedures "that would not be possible without access to clotting factor", Biogen notes.

Under the terms of the agreement, at least 85% of the donation will be the haemophilia A treatment Eloctate (recombinant factor VIII Fc fusion protein), which is currently under review by the US Food and Drug Administration. The rest will be for Alprolix (recombinant factor IX Fc fusion protein), given the green light by the FDA in March for haemophilia B.

Shipments for the programmes are expected to begin in the second half of 2015. Biogen, best-known for multiple sclerosis treatments, is looking to expand in haemophilia and the deal will boost its profile in the area but the size of the donation raises it well above a public relations exercise.

Biogen chief executive George Scangos noted that the donation "will provide some level of care to thousands of people who otherwise would not have access to treatment", a view echoed by WFH president Alain Weill. He said the group's aid programmes "would exist in name only" if not for the donations from companies such as Biogen and Sobi,” adding that “their generosity brings us 500 million steps closer to making the WFH vision of treatment for all a reality".