Save The Children, GlaxoSmithKline Partnership Raises Questions About Future Direction Of NGO, Development Work

“[T]he union of Save the Children and GlaxoSmithKline, launched [last week] in Kenya, is something of a landmark moment. It raises questions about Big Pharma and about the future direction of [non-governmental organizations (NGOs)] and development as a whole,” Guardian health editor Sarah Boseley writes in the newspaper’s “Comment is Free” blog. “Save the Children and GSK talk of the five-year partnership as a groundbreaking new deal,” she notes, adding, “GSK will reformulate products and develop others in line with Save the Children’s advice on what poor countries really need to save babies’ lives, while helping to train health workers.” She continues, “GSK’s chief executive, Sir Andrew Witty, says it is all about speeding things up. … Witty and Save’s chief executive, Justin Forsyth, have been moving towards this union for some time.”

“For Save, this is a pragmatic move,” Boseley states, noting, “Money is short in development and getting shorter as the economic situation does not improve. … All aid organizations are looking for more help. Big Pharma has shedloads of cash.” She continues, “But does the link-up of GSK and Save wash away the sins of Big Pharma? It will do GSK’s reputation no harm at all, but it won’t stop the criticism.” Boseley writes, “It was muted yesterday, because NGOs do not want to throw mud at each other, but there were plenty who did not feel like throwing confetti. If GSK really wants to do good, says Médecins Sans Frontières, it should pledge truly low prices for all its HIV drugs in the developing world.” She concludes, “The partners aim to save the lives of a million babies. It’s hard to argue with that. And it’s a safe bet they will. But the debate over whether this is the best way to do it will run and run” (5/10).