Poor countries desperately need better access to generic medicines
Workshop on expanding access to generic medicine – Meeting Report
Generic medicines remain out of reach for millions
Generic medicines work in the same way and offer the same benefits as brand-name versions. By manufacturing on a large scale, generic medicine manufacturers can supply billions of doses of essential medicines to the world. With multiple companies able to produce the same generic medicines, competition has driven down prices for many essential treatments.
In spite of this, generic medicines are not always accessible for everyone who needs them. Due to a lack of reliable local production and disrupted supply chains, people in low- and middle-income countries often struggle to access safe and reliable sources of generic medicines.
Even where supplies are available, cost remains a huge barrier: in many of the world’s poorest regions, people are forced to pay the full cost of healthcare out-of-pocket, putting an unbearable strain on living expenses. Meanwhile, medicines that are standard in high-income settings may be incompatible with the needs of populations in low- and middle-income countries, or may be difficult to store and transport safely.
Manufacturers have the power to make a difference
The supply of generics is increasingly dominated by a few large manufacturers. These companies not only have the large-scale manufacturing capacity needed to supply low- and middle-income markets, but they also have the R&D expertise to ensure that generic versions meet the needs of people living in such countries.
There are three key areas where manufacturers can act to ensure generic medicines reach those who need them:
Improve supply and quality by increasing local manufacturing capacity, addressing shortages and stockouts, strengthening supply chains, and ensuring Good Manufacturing Practice standards are applied
Invest in R&D for global health priorities and adapt medicines to the needs of patients in low- and middle-income countries
Build partnerships for essential products by registering medicines widely in low- and middle-income countries and engaging in non-exclusive voluntary licences
How we work to mobilise generic medicine manufacturers
By applying our proven model for change, we stimulate major players to take action and bring together experts from the generics industry and beyond to explore strategies for improving access.
In February 2023, we published a first-of-its-kind analytical framework, which will be used to assess, track and guide companies’ efforts to expand access to their products in low- and middle-income countries. Five of the world’s leading generic and biosimilar medicine manufacturers will be profiled in an initial analysis guided by the framework, with further companies evaluated in future.
The launch of the framework is a key step in the Generic Medicine Manufacturers Research Programme, which is the Foundation's new programme dedicated to mobilising this important group of companies and ensuring they realise their full potential as key players in access to medicine.
As part of the Programme, we also use the Foundation’s convening power to bring the right people into the room to share insights and identify solutions. In April 2022, we hosted a virtual workshop that brought together eight multinational generic medicine manufacturers with representatives from global health organisations, procurement agencies and government bodies.
In addition, we mobilise generic medicine manufacturers to address specific challenges through our other cross-sector research programmes and streams. For example, since 2017, we have been tracking and assessing some of the world's largest generic medicine manufacturers as part of the Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Benchmark, looking at how they perform in addressing AMR and ensuring access to antimicrobial products such as antibiotics and antifungals.
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Medical gas companies
We stimulate the industry to ensure availability for treatments and procedures.