GlaxoSmithKline response to Oxfam’s report “Investing for Life” Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited GlaxoSmithKline to respond to the following items: Press release: "Pharmaceutical industry is undermining its own future as millions of poor people denied access to medicines", Oxfam, 27 Nov 2007 Full report: “Investing for life - Meeting poor people’s needs for access to medicines through responsible business practices”, Oxfam, 27 Nov 2007
GlaxoSmithKline sent this statement: 11 December 2007 GSK Statement on
Oxfam Briefing paper “Investing for life - Meeting poor people’s needs for access to medicines through responsible business practices” GSK welcomes constructive discussion of the challenges that face the industry in improving healthcare in the developing world. Consequently, we actively engaged with Oxfam on the development of this paper, including two lengthy meetings and numerous e-mail and telephone exchanges. In particular, we responded to a specific request to develop a case study on our business in India which was not used in the final paper. We also participated in the launch of the paper held at F&C Investments on 27 November.
Whilst we welcome the consultative approach taken by Oxfam in the development of this paper, and the endorsement of GSK as the leading company, we do not feel that the final paper does the consultation process or GSK’s contribution to this justice, and does not reflect well on Oxfam’s intent for genuine consultation.
The industry is making a significant contribution to improving healthcare in the developing world, and there have been significant improvements in the past 5 years. We believe this contribution is understated in the Oxfam paper. For example, to suggest that investment in R&D for developing world diseases is a ’major shortcoming’ based on the number of products launched up to 2004, fails to acknowledge the significant improvements in investments in R&D by GSK and others in the industry in recent years.
We fully accept that it is Oxfam’s role to question the status quo, and to challenge us to do more. However, the negative tone in the paper and the press release is not conducive to constructive discussion of these issues. The industry will be encouraged to do more if it receives recognition for where there has been progress. By ignoring this progress, and purely focusing on negative issues, it is disappointing that Oxfam has missed an opportunity to encourage industry to go further. Oxfam has played a ‘blame game’ when it could have more constructively focussed on solutions.
The Oxfam paper fails to recognise the complexity involved in improving access to healthcare generally, never mind access to medicines specifically. Improving healthcare in the developing world presents a major challenge which can only be addressed if the significant barriers that stand in the way of improved access are tackled as a shared responsibility by all sectors of global society - governments, international agencies, charities, academic institutions, the pharmaceutical industry and others
The Oxfam paper raises some interesting points on middle-income countries (MICs). Middle-income countries are more economically developed than the world’s poorest countries but we acknowledge that they often have healthcare demands that outstrip their available resources. GSK is developing innovative approaches to addressing the challenges of MICs through various pilot projects, including tiered pricing models within as well as between countries; gauging the relationship between price and volume for selected products in targeted MICs; and differential branding strategies in targeted MICs.
The Oxfam report overstates the role of IP in access and fails to recognise both the importance of IP as an incentive to bio-medical R&D, and the importance of incremental innovation. We do not believe that the IP benchmarks used in the report are realistic or meaningful. Too many people see local manufacturing, and tearing up intellectual property (IP) rules, as a panacea. This is simplistic and counter-productive. If that were the answer, India would deal with AIDS better than any country in the developing world. Until recently, India had no IP protection for pharmaceutical products, and has the most developed generics industry in the world, and yet access to ARVs for those who need them is arguably no better than in Africa. Additionally, of the 325 medicines on the WHO’s Essential Medicines List, over 95% are off patent and yet the WHO state that a third of the world’s population have no reliable access to them. Clearly, lack of healthcare infrastructure and resources are the problems, and where the focus should be, rather than on IP
GSK is committed to playing an integral role in the global response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic by taking an innovative, responsible and, above all, sustainable approach to meeting the healthcare challenges of the developing world. While we don't have the mandate, expertise or resources to deliver healthcare unilaterally, GSK is making a vital contribution to developing country healthcare through action in four areas1:
preferential pricing of our antiretrovirals, anti-malarials and vaccines – we have a single, sustainable, not-for-profit preferential price for each of our ARVs and anti-malarials to a wide range of customers in the Least Developed Countries and sub-Saharan Africa – a total of 64 countries;
investing in research and development (R&D) that targets diseases particularly affecting the developing world - we believe we are the only company undertaking R&D into the prevention and treatment of all three of the World Health Organization's priority diseases in the developing world, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria:
community investment activities and partnerships that foster effective healthcare - for example, GSK is a key partner in the global programme to eliminate lymphatic filariasis (LF), also known as elephantiasis. This is a disabling and disfiguring disease that currently affects 120 million people, and threatens a further 1.2 billion, in some of the poorest nations of the world. Over the anticipated 20 year life of the programme, our donations to this important endeavour will build to an estimated six billion tablets, valued at $1 billion; and,
innovative partnerships and solutions – for example, we have granted eight voluntary licences to generic companies for some of our antiretrovirals (ARVs) in Africa.
We believe that our response is not only the right thing to do but makes good business sense. Companies that respond sensitively and with commitment by changing their business practices to address such challenges will be the leaders of the future.
1 For more information, please see http://www.gsk.com/responsibility/cr-review-2006/access-to-medicines.htm