Index Ranks Drug Makers Worldwide on Efforts To Make Medicines Available in Developing Countries
European pharmaceutical companies surpass their U.S. counterparts in making their medicines available and affordable to developing countries, according to an index released on Monday that ranks drug makers based on their corporate responsibility, the Financial Times reports (Jack, Financial Times, 6/15). The list, called the Access to Medicine Index, was created for "social responsibility" funds and investors who want to know how drug makers are helping people with HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and other diseases prevalent in the developing world, according to the New York Times (McNeil, New York Times, 6/17).
Produced by the Netherlands-based Access to Medicine Foundation, the ranking is based on eight main criteria, including companies' policies on increasing drug access, patents, research into neglected diseases and pricing systems. The United Kingdom's GlaxoSmithKline topped the list, followed by Denmark's Novo Nordisk in second place and the U.S.' Merck in third. Pfizer, the world's largest drug maker, ranked 17th, and there were no Japanese drug companies on the list. India-based generic companies Ranbaxy Laboratories and Cipla also were on the list.
Wim Leereveld, head of the Access to Medicine Foundation, said the index will provide investors with the resources to assess companies' social responsibility and "prompt laggards into actions." In terms of the gap between European and U.S. companies, Leereveld said it is largely cultural. "Europe is closer to Africa and has deeper relations with Africa," he said, adding, "But it is also clear from issues like carbon emissions and climate change that there is something of a transatlantic divide on corporate social responsibility issues" (Hirschler, Reuters, 6/16). However, Leereveld said he hopes the index will make some companies "shining examples to others" and be useful to governments, medical charities and journalists (New York Times, 6/17).
Some long-term investors are concerned that the index could have a negative impact on drug makers' reputations and operations if they fail to focus on providing access to medicines in developing countries, Reuters reports (Reuters, 6/16). However, a group of fund managers who endorsed the index in a statement said there is a need for tools that help investors and analysts assess the long-term investment value of companies, including how they respond to the issue of access to medicine (Financial Times, 6/15).