GlaxoSmithKline ranked number one in a study of pharmaceutical companies offering access to medicines to emerging and developing nations, proving that the UK drug giant has a far stronger grasp on new markets than its US and Japanese counterparts.
The study ranks 20 companies based on significant criteria including pricing, patents and intellectual properties, capacity enhancement, marketing, lobbying tactics, competition, and philanthropy.The study was the brainchild of Wim Leereveld, founder and chairman of the NGO, Access to Medicine Foundation, in partnership with research firm Risk Metrics.
This is the second index that the foundation has published. The first, released in 2008, featured data submitted from only nine companies. This year, 19 of the 20 pharma firms were open and transparent with their information.
High Marks All Around
So what separates GSK from the competition?
“GSK has integrated access to medicine into its core business model, so it’s not philanthropy, it’s really part of the way they do business and part of their understanding of the importance of emerging markets,” said Afshin Mehrpouya of Risk Metrics. “As a result, they are heavily engaged in research for neglected diseases. At the same time [they are] able to sell their drugs in the emerging markets, they help with the development of the infrastructure.”
Companies at the middle or the bottom of the list treat access to medicine as a tactical issue rather than including access to medicines as a major part of their business, Mehrpoua explained.
The biggest mover among Big Pharma companies was Pfizer, which ranked 17 in 2008, but moved up to number nine this year.
“Pfizer is now seen as a player,” Leereveld said. “The company has changed dramatically. All the people [in that division] are gone and there is a new team that see [access to medicine] as a very relevant matter to perform in developing countries and they did their utmost to get their data together.”
European companies, in general, have has a longer history operating in emerging markets, giving them a lead on Japanese and American firms that relied for many years on local markets for sales.
“Given the saturation of the Western market, the decline of the blockbuster drugs, and the fast growth of the emerging markets, companies like Pfizer are moving faster to catch up with their European counterparts,” Mehrpouya said.