Ethical Performance
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Drug firms to be ranked on access to medicines

February 2008

Institutional investors are to formally assess pharmaceuticals companies on the extent to which they improve access to medicines worldwide.

The top 20 pharma companies by market capitalization will be assessed from early summer in an annual Access to Medicine Index using criteria agreed by civil society groups, institutional investors and many of the companies themselves.

Investors with combined assets under management of €910billion ($1,350bn, £689bn), including Bank Sarasin, CIS, F&C, Henderson Global Investors, Morley, Schroders and SNS Asset Management, will use the index to guide their investments.

The index will be compiled by the US-based research company Innovest with the three-year-old non-profit Access to Medicine Foundation, which is based in the Netherlands and funded by NGOs and governments.

A fifth of the weighted criteria relate to management procedures (see piechart), in particular whether companies have:

one or more board members directly responsible for access to medicines strategy
quantitative targets to implement and monitor strategy
a mechanism for engaging with stakeholders to inform their access to medicines policy
appropriate marketing policies.

‘Public policy influence’ and lobbying account for a further tenth, including a requirement that ‘companies and subsidiaries disclose major public policy positions at regional, national and international levels’.

The index will also take account of research and development, patents, pricing, technology transfer agreements with local firms in developing countries, and measures taken to address counterfeiting of drugs.

Innovest claimed that a ‘global consensus’ was emerging among the industry, investors, health organizations and the UN on the most appropriate indicators.

AstraZeneca, Bayer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Novartis, Novo Nordisk and Roche all helped to develop the criteria, which correspond closely to guidelines recently drafted by Paul Hunt, a UN special rapporteur on how the industry can improve access to the two billion people in developing countries who lack essential medicines (EP9, issue 6, p7). However, the two initiatives have not directly fed into each other. Hunt’s guidelines, if approved by the UN’s Human Rights Council, will be adopted as official UN recommendations to the industry.

Access to Medicine | Global | Benchmarking

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