GlaxoSmithKline has once again come top of an analysis which rates 20 drugmakers and their ability to get their products to the world’s developing countries, with Novo Nordisk rising four places to second.
The Access to Medicines Foundation, based in the Netherlands, says that pharmaceutical companies are doing more to help poorer nations “with a raft of new initiatives, scale-ups and innovations over the last two years”.The foundation has published its Access to Medicine Index, which GSK tops the Index for the fourth time.

The Index notes that GSK has “an innovative business model focused on Africa, a large relevant portfolio, a large share of its pipeline dedicated to relevant diseases, and numerous access-oriented intellectual property sharing partnerships”. Novo is heralded for access activities which “are well managed, integrated into its business strategy, and well targeted to local needs. It also applies access-oriented pricing strategies to diabetes products in all least developed countries”.

Eisai has risen steadily  and now ranks 11th, up four places from 15th in 2012, while  Sanofi (from 3 to 8) and Pfizer (from 11 to 16) fell down the rankings most significantly, while Japanese firms Astellas, Daiichi Sankyo and Takeda remain at the bottom of the league.

The Index states that the pharma industry is paying more attention to  people’s ability to pay, “increasingly tailoring prices within countries”.  Since 2012, the number of products in the pipeline appropriate for developing countries has grown by 47 and companies are granting more licences to developing country firms to make and distribute generics.

Furthermore, “all 20 companies now have some form of board-level representation for access-to-medicine issues” and the number of drugmakers linking performance incentives to access has more than doubled since 2012.

Weak in two areas

However, the sector “is struggling to perform well in two important areas”, the report notes. Eighteen out of 20 “have been the subject of settlements or judgements regarding breaches in ethical marketing, bribery or corruption standards or competition laws in the last two years”. GSK’s woes in China were settled after the period of analysis, and therefore did not affect its score in the 2014 Index.

Secondly, “companies remain conservative in their disclosure of where patents are active and when they will expire – information that is very useful to medicine procurers and generics manufacturers”.

The Index is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the UK Department for International Development. It scores companies across seven areas, including R&D, pricing, patents and licensing, public policy and donations.