A document recently crossed my desk that was so seminal I
needed to share it with my colleagues through this column. I can only highlight the big pieces for
you and suggest that you read the document yourself.
I would like to send you in the direction of a report by
Oxfam, a group whose work is spread around the world but often focuses on
healthcare delivery, or rather the absence thereof, to the poor. The report is titled Investing for
Life—Meeting Poor People's Needs for Access to Medicines through Responsible
In this report, Oxfam maintains that one of the major
responsibilities of pharma companies is to develop and distribute meds to
underdeveloped countries that cannot afford to pay for these agents. Until now, Oxfam maintains, the
industry has provided such access primarily as a PR stunt, i.e., taking already
developed medications for diseases such as AIDS/HIV and distributing them to
the needy at minimal pricing, thus permitting them to hold forth to the world
their humanitarian behavior.
underdeveloped countries become more like the developed countries, with
low-visibility killers such as hypertension becoming the real problems, Oxfam
says that most pharma companies have no plan in place to deliver meds to the
poor, let alone develop new products in areas that might only be of use in such
poor countries, thus denying the company the opportunity to recoup its
investment in R&D by selling the agents in developed countries.
The report makes the point that pharma companies need to
develop a plan to ensure that a country's ability to pay for medications is
factored into strategies that companies develop. From a moral perspective, Oxfam points out, we can no longer
ignore this consideration.
Richard Vanderveer is group CEO, GfK US Healthcare Companies