Setting out to achieve equitable access to medicine
It all began with a single question: how can we encourage the pharmaceutical industry to do more to help the world’s poorest people access the medicine they need?
The Access to Medicine Foundation was established in 2003 by Dutch entrepreneur Wim Leereveld, with the aim of stimulating the pharmaceutical industry to do more for the billions of people lacking access to medicine.
Over the next five years, the fledgling Foundation approached the leading minds in the global health space to join the discussion. The result was a list of ambitious but achievable actions that pharmaceutical companies could take to close the access gap.
From a small initiative to a force for change
In 2008, the first Access to Medicine Index was published. Drawing on the list of achievable actions, the Index ranked 20 of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies on their policies and practices for improving access to medicine. Since 2008, the Access to Medicine Index has been published every two years, and has become a widely respected tool for stimulating pharmaceutical companies to take action on access-to-medicine issues.
In October 2015, Wim Leereveld handed over leadership of the Access to Medicine Foundation to Dr Jayasree K. Iyer. Under Jayasree’s leadership, the Foundation expanded the scope of its activities with new research programmes: the Access to Vaccines Index, first published in 2017, and the Antimicrobial Resistance Benchmark, launched at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2018.
A roadmap to healthcare equity
As demonstrated by the success of the Access to Medicine Index and confirmed by independent third-party evaluation, our model for change has the power to move the needle on access to essential healthcare products for people living in low-and middle-income countries. Having carved out a unique role within the global health ecosystem, the Foundation now has a strategic opportunity to expand its sphere of influence into the areas of greatest untapped potential.
In 2022, we began to further expand our model to move companies across a wider range of healthcare sectors encompassing big pharma, vaccine manufacturers, generic medicine manufacturers, diagnostic companies and medical gas companies. We will focus on the largest players who dominate each market, whether through control of supply and distribution or via innovation and intellectual property rights.
Without the cooperation and consensus of the biggest pharmaceutical companies and all of their stakeholders, it is impossible to address today’s global health challenges. There are still so many people worldwide who cannot access the medicine they need. At the same time, I see that the will from all stakeholders to reach them is rapidly growing.
Founder of the Access to Medicine Foundation.