Global health initiatives encompass coordinated efforts, often led by international organisations, governments, and non-profit entities, to address pressing health challenges on a worldwide scale. These initiatives aim to improve health outcomes, enhance access to healthcare services, and mitigate disease burdens across underserved countries and regions. Their importance lies in the ability to pool resources, expertise, and innovative solutions to combat disease, promote health equity, and strengthen healthcare systems.
As well as being an influential ally, pharma is an instrumental player in this mission due to its drug innovation, development, manufacturing, and distribution capabilities.
Here we evaluate the three areas where pharma companies have supported efforts to advance global health.
1. Collaborative research and development partnerships
An illustration of partnerships driving research and development for global health improvement is GlaxoSmithKline’s collaboration with Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV), a not-for-profit research organisation, to develop & distribute the RTS,S malaria vaccine in malaria-endemic areas and fund pioneering research into malaria treatments.
These partnerships allow scientific expertise/resources to be shared, expedite the development of novel treatments, and bring them to market more quickly. Partnering with an organisation with established roots in a particular area may also make treatment distribution easier.
However, developing a novel treatment is only one piece to a complex puzzle – an adequate healthcare system with solid infrastructure is required for efficient treatment delivery and initiation, which may be challenging for countries that do not currently have this in place.
2. Investment in healthcare infrastructure
Takeda’s Access to Medicines program is a comprehensive initiative aiming to improve global access to medicines and invest in healthcare infrastructure, particularly in underserved and low-income regions. Key features of the program include donations of essential medicines, tailored price adjustments, disease management support, and local HCP training.
This type of program enhances patient outcomes when essential medicines are accessible, along with a strengthened & sustainable healthcare system and the upskilling of local HCPs. With these elements working in unison, the program has the potential to reduce disparities in healthcare access and disease burden.
Although, adequate resources and long-term sustainability may become challenging unless financial and logistical resources can be maintained. Healthcare infrastructure must also be culturally and contextually relevant to serve the local population and align with community needs effectively. Establishing effective data collection and monitoring systems is also crucial to assess the impact of healthcare infrastructure investment and make informed decisions for improvements.
3. Capacity building and training
A key component of robust and sustainable healthcare infrastructure is capacity building and training – and the Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases (NITD) in Singapore aims to build local expertise and capabilities in tropical disease research by offering training opportunities to local researchers & HCPs.
The training programs empower and equip these individuals with the skills and knowledge to contribute to healthcare advancements within their communities – and the NITD initiative has even supported the development of new antimalarial drug candidates to clinical trials.
Likewise, it’s essential to acknowledge that programs on this scale require a long-term commitment and investment to maintain these opportunities and sustain impact.
Adopting a truly patient-centric and sustainable approach
We know that patient voice is more important now than ever, and we’re seeing an exciting shift in pharma, where they’re adopting patient-centric approaches to their business activities. But are all pharma companies truly considering the voices of all patients (or potential patients) regardless of geographical borders? It’s evident that pharma companies have the potential to create tangible solutions to address the needs of their patient population, as well as contribute to overall healthcare sustainability.
Calls to action
Health inequity is still rife within our world, and pharma has the power to make a difference. Below is a summary of actions they can take to improve global health:
- Collaborative partnerships: Establish and nurture partnerships with governments, NGOs, research institutions and local communities for shared expertise and resources
- Affordable access: Ensure affordability and equitable access to essential medicines and treatments, especially in low-income and underserved regions
- Research and development: Continue to invest in research and prioritise innovations that address critical global health challenges
- Capacity building: Support training and education programs to empower local HCPs and strengthen healthcare infrastructure
- Patient-centred approach: Incorporate the patient voice in research, development and decision-making processes to create patient-centred solutions for all patients around the world
- Sustainability: Develop sustainable models for interventions and collaborations to ensure long-term impact and support
By actively engaging in these calls to action, pharma companies can be pivotal in driving positive change, reducing healthcare disparities, and contributing to a healthier and more equitable world.