Japanese News Release: Access to Medicine Foundation announces 2016 Access to Medicine Index

Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 14 November 2016 – The Access to Medicine Foundation has announced today the publication of the 2016 Access to Medicine Index. The Access to Medicine Index is a two-yearly report that ranks the top 20 pharmaceutical companies on their efforts to improve access to medicine in low- and middle-income countries. In 2016, GSK leads the Index for the fifth time and of the Japanese companies participating in the Index, Eisai ranked 11th while Takeda rose significantly, up five positions to rank 15th.

The 2016 Index—conducted for the fifth time—has assessed the extent to which a company’s access operations are needs-oriented: it found that while pharmaceutical companies are getting more sophisticated in the way they get their products to poor people and are addressing global health priorities, opportunities to expand such targeting of efforts are yet to be realised.

GSK is joined at the top of the Index by a closely packed group comprising Johnson & Johnson, Novartis and Merck KGaA. The four companies in this leadership group share some distinguishing characteristics. They have the most mature access programmes, with well-organised access strategies that support business development in emerging markets, where the need for access to medicine is high.

“We see evidence that collaborative R&D models are engaging the industry in developing urgently needed medicines they would not otherwise be considering because there is not enough of a commercial market for them,” said Jayasree K. Iyer, Executive Director of the Access to Medicine Foundation. “The partnership approach is working. For example, GHIT is an excellent model that has engaged both the public sector and the industry in Japan to innovate products for poverty-related diseases.” GHIT stands for the Global Health Innovative Technology Fund. “All of the Japanese companies in the Index are now involved, helping, for example, to develop medicines for Chagas disease, leishmaniasis and malaria.

Progress in making more medicines more available is also seen in the way companies are handling their patents and in the extent to which they are allowing other manufacturers to make generic versions of their products. For example, since 2014, seven companies have published new or expanded pledges to waive or abandon patent rights for certain products in certain regions. More HIV/AIDS products are covered by voluntary licenses and these apply in more countries than they did before. And for the first time, they are being used to expand access to medicines for a disease other than HIV/AIDS – hepatitis C. Globally, between 130–150 million people have chronic hepatitis C infection.

However, the Index finds that, for their newest products, companies apply for registration in only 25% of countries the Index identifies as the highest priority.

Making products more affordable is another cornerstone of increasing access to medicine.

The Index finds that pricing schemes that take account of the ability to pay are being applied to one-third of relevant products. This has not changed since the last Index two years ago. Only 5 % of products (44 out of 850) have such pricing strategies applied in countries the Index identifies as the highest-priority.

“We have been assessing these 20 companies for 10 years now. We know what works, where. There is good practice and where there are mechanisms to incentivise industry engagement, such as patent pooling, collaborative R&D models, multi-stakeholder initiatives and international commitments to certain diseases, we see the industry responding,” Iyer said. “Access to medicine is a collective responsibility and all stakeholders –from the industry to governments and the global health community– need to challenge themselves to support the ramping up of these efforts to ensure they are expanded to more products in more countries so that pharmaceutical products reach the people who need them.” 

 Brief overview of performance of Japanese companies on the Access to Medicine Index

Eisai improves across all areas but remain in 11th place due to the higher level of progress made by industry peers.

  • It is among the leaders in Market Influence & Compliance, with no settlements relating to unethical behaviour.
  • It also improves in R&D, conducting a higher portion of relevant R&D through partnerships than any other company. Many of these partnerships are based on terms for ensuring access.
  • Commits to not enforcing its patents in Least Developed Countries, low-income countries, or Low Human Development countries.
  • Works toward the elimination of lymphatic filariasis through its donation programme, which reaches a significant number of people.

Takeda is one of the biggest risers in the 2016 Index, moving 5 places to 15th. It demonstrates a more strategic and comprehensive approach to access to medicine.

  • It has launched a new access strategy supported by a centralised dashboard for tracking progress and performance.
  • Takeda has strong R&D commitments related to access to medicine, developing products for dengue and norovirus infections and shares IP for neglected tropical diseases leishmaniasis and Chagas disease.
  • It has newly implemented equitable pricing strategies that differentiate between countries.
  • It newly commits to not file for or enforce patents in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • It improves in capacity building, particularly for R&D and pharmacovigilance.

Daiichi Sankyo rises one place to rank 18th, with signs of improvement in several areas.

  • The company is more transparent regarding its market influence and lobbying activities.
  • It has expanded equitable pricing to one more product, and has registered more products in countries with high burdens of disease than in 2014.
  • Its pipeline for priority diseases is approximately 50% larger than in 2014 and it has moved a greater proportion of R&D projects through the pipeline than in the previous Index.
  • It is one of the biggest risers in Capacity Building, making a clear commitment to report suspected falsified medicines to national authorities. It also is involved in projects such as supporting mobile health clinics, access to medical services and in technology transfer of vaccines.

Astellas, while falling two places to rank 20th, improves its access-to-medicine performance in several areas.

  • Its R&D strategy for 2015-2017 includes multiple targets to develop products for neglected diseases such as schistosomiasis and Chagas disease, and to maintain the ratio of its total R&D investment at more than 17% of net sales.
  • Its approach to intellectual property (IP) has improved, with a pledge not to file for or enforce IP rights in Least Developed Countries and low-income countries.
  • It is one of the biggest risers in Capacity Building, improving in strengthening supply chain management in Asia.
  • To improve, Astellas should develop a clear strategy for improving access to medicine, and align its existing access objectives with its core business strategy.

The news release in Japanese can be downloaded from the button above

Notes for Reporters / the Press

The Access to Medicine Index is published by the Access to Medicine Foundation, a non-profit organisation based in the Netherlands that aims to advance access to medicine in developing countries by encouraging the pharmaceutical industry to accept a greater role in improving access to medicine in less developed countries. The Index methodology was developed, and is continually refined, in consultation with multiple expert stakeholders including the World Health Organization, NGOs, governments and universities, as well as institutional investors. The Index is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the UK Department for International Development.

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View our detailed overview of each company’s performance in the Index, including breakdowns of their product portfolios and R&D pipelines.