European Drugmakers Lead In Making Medicines Available To Developing World, Index Says

European drug companies came out ahead of their U.S. counterparts in making medicines available to people in developing countries, but their lead is beginning to shrink, according to the Access to Medicines Index (AMI), released on Monday, Reuters reports (Kelland, 6/21).

British company GlaxoSmithKline “retained its prime position in the second Access to Medicines Index, while Merck of the U.S., known for its efforts on HIV and donations to treat river blindness, came next, ahead of Novartis, Gilead and Sanofi-Aventis,” the Financial Times writes (London, 6/20). 

The index, which is “produced by a Dutch-based foundation and backed by 22 institutional investors and fund managers,” aims to provide investors with a “way to compare drugmakers’ social responsibility records,” Reuters writes. “In the 2010 index, six of the ten highest-ranking companies are based in Europe, while four are based in the U.S. This compares with two years ago, when seven European and three U.S. firms got a top 10 ranking,” the news service states. According to the index, there are significant differences between the drugmakers’ “efforts to provide millions of people in low-income countries with affordable drugs and vaccines. But compared to 2008, when the first index was published, drug companies gave more insight into their policies and actions to increase poor people’s access to medicines, AMI researchers said in a report” (6/21).

“The 2010 ranking reveals important progress, if only because companies have shown far greater willingness to open up. The Index unveils great improvements, especially in the areas of research and development, and equitable pricing. At the same time, it shows that the industry as a whole still has a long way to go,” Wim Leereveld, the index’s founder, said in an AMI press release. Generic pharmaceutical makers, “who do less research but produce low-cost off-patent drugs, now have a separate ranking. Ranbaxy Laboratories (India) and Cipla (India) top that list,” the press release states (6/21).