Which pharmaceutical companies have the most essential medicines and vaccines?

Access to Medicine Index

The new analysis by the Access to Medicine Foundation shows which large pharmaceutical companies are marketing the most essential medicines and vaccines for the highest-burden disease in developing countries. It matches companies’ on market portfolio for 50 conditions and diseases with the WHO Model Essential Medicine List (EML) (2015). The WHO model EML provides a list of minimum medicine needs for a basic health-care system, listing the most efficacious, safe and cost-effective medicines for priority conditions. The new analysis has been published to coincide with the launch of the report by the Lancet Commission on Essential Medicines for Universal Health Coverage.

Five companies market the most essential medicines

The top 20 pharmaceutical companies collectively submitted 778 medicines and vaccines for assessment for the latest Access to Medicine Index. In total, 451 of these (58%) are listed on the EML. The majority of these (274, or 61%) are from either Sanofi, GSK, Novartis, Merck KGaA and Pfizer. These companies each have more than 40 products on the EML.

Figure 1. Pharmaceutical companies are marketing 451 essential medicines and vaccines.

GSK and Novartis price more EML products equitably

Companies are taking a range of actions that impact the accessibility of many of these 451 products. Novartis and GSK are applying equitable pricing strategies (where affordability is taken into account) for more EML medicines and vaccines than any other company (37 and 40, respectively). In addition to affordability actions, non-exclusive voluntary licences have been agreed for some essential HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C medicines. These include abacavir for HIV/AIDS, from GSK via ViiV, and sofosbuvir for hepatitis C, from Gilead. Companies also donate essential medicines and vaccines, in cooperation with WHO, including of Mectizan, by Merck & Co., Inc.*, and praziquantel, from Merck KGaA.

*Merck & Co., Inc. is known as MSD outside the US and Canada. Merck KGaA’s healthcare division is known as EMD Serono in the US and Canada.

Figure 2. GSK and Novartis: apply equitable pricing to the most essential medicines and vaccines

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About the Access to Medicine Index

The Access to Medicine Index analyses the top 20 research-based pharmaceutical companies with products for high-burden diseases in low- and middle-income countries. The Index ranks these companies according to their efforts to improve access to medicine in seven areas of corporate behaviour, including pricing, patents, ethical behaviour and donations. It covers 107 low- and middle-income countries and 50 high-burden diseases, and examines eight types of products, from medicines to vaccines to diagnostics. The Index identifies best practices, highlights where progress is being made, and uncovers where critical action is still required. In this way, the Index provides both an incentive and a guide for pharmaceutical companies to do more to improve access to medicine. It is published every two years by the Access to Medicine Foundation, an independent non-profit organisation.

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.