Words by GOLD newsdesk
More pharmaceutical companies have taken steps toward improving equitable access to their medicines and therapeutics, but further efforts are needed to close access gaps, according to the newly-released 2022 Access to Medicine Index.
The Index, published on 15 November 2022, reveals that for 77% of projects nearing the end of R&D pipelines, companies now have a plan in place to promote access after launch, up from 40% in the 2021 Index. In addition, companies are increasingly implementing strategies to expand access to existing products, with a rise from 58% to 83%.
For the first time since the Index’s inception, all 20 companies in its scope reported to have an access to medicine strategy, 19 of which had integrated this into their overall corporate strategy.
However, despite the rapid and effective R&D response to COVID-19, global inequity in vaccine rollout is highlighted within the Index. Low-income countries were reported to still be significantly overlooked in comparison to middle-income countries.
"Pharmaceutical companies have responded to the inequity in access to medicine laid bare by COVID-19 – including committing to addressing this in many countries,” commented Jayasree Iyer, CEO, Access to Medicine Foundation. “If they can deliver on these ambitions and reach patients quickly and broadly, it will be a breakthrough in solving persistent gaps in global health equity.”
Only five of the 20 companies analysed reported to be engaging in R&D efforts for emerging infectious diseases other than COVID-19, meaning those in low- and middle-income countries who already face threats posed by these neglected diseases may be waiting longer for treatment.
Advising pharma on how to overcome this, James Hazel, Research Programme Manager for the 2022 Index, Access to Medicine Foundation, said: “Companies must consider the depths of their plans, strength of their supply chains, and equity of their pricing strategies to reach the most vulnerable populations.”
GSK retains the top spot in the Index’s overall ranking, followed by Johnson & Johnson – up one place from last year’s results – and newly joined by AstraZeneca in third place having risen from seventh in 2021. Merck additionally joined the top five for this year’s Index, with noted excellence in R&D access planning.