Drugmakers partner to tackle non-communicable diseases in developing countries

More than 20 pharmaceutical companies on Wednesday launched a project termed Access Accelerated to tackle non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cancer and diabetes in low and lower-middle income countries. The initiative, which will have funding of $50 million over three years, aims to work towards the United Nations' goal of reducing premature deaths from NCDs by one-third by 2030.

"If the current trend in NCDs in low- and lower-middle income countries is not reversed, there is a real possibility we will undermine the progress we have made in health around the world," remarked Pfizer CEO Ian Read. "To reach our goal, we need to catalyse new partnerships, learn quickly and advance the resources and knowledge that will enable countries to tackle NCDs," Read added.

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Along with Pfizer, other members of the initiative include Almirall, Astellas, Bayer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Celgene, Chugai, Daiichi Sankyo, Eisai, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Menarini, Merck & Co., Merck KGaA, Novartis, Roche, Sanofi, Shionogi, Sumitomo Dainippon, Takeda and UCB. In addition, the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA), the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA), the Japan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (JPMA) and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) will contribute to the project.

​The IFPMA noted that Access Accelerated will have a "specific emphasis" on addressing access barriers to NCD prevention, treatment and care. The federation indicated that the project plans to develop partnerships with organisations specialising in each of the major NCDs, starting with cancer. According to the IFPMA, along with the World Bank Group, the initiative will identify solutions to address financing, regulatory and service delivery barriers at country level, with pilots conducted in primary care to improve NCD outcomes in several countries, focussing initially on one in Africa.

Sanofi CEO Olivier Brandicourt said that the initial funding commitment was just a start. "The $50 million is more like seeding funding, if you want, and based on the results we'll gather afterwards we will have a more ambitious programme with more stakeholders between 2020 and 2030," he added. Meanwhile, Roche CEO Severin Schwan noted that the drugmaker, along with other companies, is already implementing preferential pricing for the developing world, but cost was only one hurdle. "It has a lot to do with hospital infrastructure. You can't administer modern cancer medicines if you don't have sophisticated lab facilities," Schwan commented, adding "we're going to institutionalise cooperation in this area."

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