Two billion people lack access to medicine. The Access to Medicine Foundation a 10-year-old organization, that seeks to raise the ambition and performance of the pharmaceutical industry with the world’s poor, is working to change that. The Foundation stimulates a “race to do well” among pharmaceutical companies through the Access to Medicine Index, which ranks pharmaceutical companies’ efforts to improve access to medicine in developing countries.
We had an open and provocative conversation with Jayasree K. Iyer, the Foundation’s newly appointed Executive Director, as she takes the reins of this organization as it enters its tenth year. We discussed her vision, what hasn’t worked so well in the past, the role of shared value champions, how the Index is changing the pharmaceutical landscape, and what trends she’s most excited about around access to medicine.
- The shared value potential in creating greater access to medicine
Companies respond primarily to business need, and there is a clear need to move into these developing markets—2 billion potential customers who want and need medicine. Secondly, they respond to corporate responsibility. There is also a growing push from the public, governments, and investors to have an effective access to medicine strategy and be included in the Access to Medicine Index, making it both a business opportunity and necessity.
- Reaching consensus within the different stakeholder groups on what should be measured
We believe that what gets measured gets done, but building a consensus around metrics is tricky. We’ve realized through our work on the index that we can actually reach a consensus amongst many key stakeholders such as investors, governments, patent organizations, NGOs, academia and the pharmaceutical industry on key metrics, which has given organizations and leaders consistent goal posts to aim for. This ability to measure has really stimulated change across the industry, and moved us from awareness to improved performance and results on greater access to medicine in developing countries.
- Creating a culture of collaboration
The index has facilitated connections and has contributed to the opening up of the industry to increased collaboration. Companies that were very closed off before are now working with other companies, NGOs, governments, and civil society on this issue. The index has called for and driven many companies to collaborate to co-invent solutions, share risks, and create real results.
- Strengthening engagement with local stakeholders
As companies reevaluate their access strategy and consider how to create new medicines or deploy existing products, they have increasingly turned to local stakeholders for input. We have seen local stakeholder engagement become not only a regular activity but a part of the core strategy for many companies.
- Greater recognition of access to medicine champions within companies
Identifying individuals working on access to medicine and publicly supporting their efforts can make a huge difference. These individuals work on very small teams within large organizations, and some do not have control on key business decisions at their company or a strong network of like-minded peers at other companies. Highlighting their work allows them to connect and share best practices with others working on this issue and empowers them to go to their boss with the Index and say, “We need to do more to solve these problems and make progress along with the rest of the industry.”
Jayasree K. Iyer leads the Access to Medicine Foundation as Executive Director. She directs the Foundation's strategy, stakeholder dialogues, and research programs. As a spokesperson, she is actively involved in stimulating change within the pharmaceutical industry.