Now online: Going beyond CSR to reach ‘the two billion’ by Jayasree K. Iyer for PharmaPhorum

Access to Medicine Foundation

Many pharma companies have corporate social responsibility (CSR) departments, but some are going further and putting access to medicine at the core of their businesses. Jayasree K. Iyer, executive director of the Access to Medicine Foundation, considers how this trend is helping treatments reach the two billion people around the world who lack medicines at present.

Access to medicine and market access are two sides of the same coin. However, tension exists in every pharma company between ensuring shareholder profits and improving access to products for people living in poverty and in hard-to-reach areas. We bring stakeholders together to determine what the industry should do to improve access to medicine for the two billion people who live without.

Through the Access to Medicine Index, companies compete to be the best at meeting this target. By sharing best practices, we empower the ‘change makers’ in these firms to drive sustainable businesses that improve health in low- and middle-income countries.

For the biggest companies in the world, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is standard – important for employee motivation and ‘giving back to society’. The CSR department covers donations, philanthropic giving, plus outreach and training programmes in developing countries. Often, they are responsible for assisting patients living in poverty in developed countries, like the US, too.

The strategic direction and main activities sponsored by the company, key outcomes and impact are often discussed by senior leadership with a sense of pride and achievement in boardrooms. In certain countries, investing profits into CSR is also a prerequisite for doing business. For example in India, it is legislated that companies must invest at least 2% of profits in such activities.

Now there is a new breed of social responsibility growing in the industry, which goes beyond CSR as described above. It is driven by the notion that business has a broader role in the global community – beyond a transactional role. It is possible for access to medicine to be part of commercial strategies and …

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About the Access to Medicine Foundation

The Access to Medicine Foundation is a non-profit organisation based in the Netherlands. It aims to advance access to medicine in low- and middle-income countries by stimulating and guiding the pharmaceutical industry to play a greater role in improving access to medicine. The Foundation is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the UK Department for International Development. For ten years, the Foundation has been building consensus on the role for the pharmaceutical industry in improving access to medicine and vaccines. It published its first benchmark of industry activity in this area in 2008, in the first Access to Medicine Index. The fifth Access to Medicine Index will be published in 2016.