Industry invests in supply chain strategies for low-income countries

By Ben Hargreaves contact

- Last updated on GMT

(Image: Getty/Anyaberkut)
(Image: Getty/Anyaberkut)

Related tags: LMICs, Medicine access

Pharma companies have improved or maintained standards for effective drug recalls, product packaging and managing supply in LMICs, according to the report.

The Access to Medicine Index report analyses how 20 of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies are responding to the challenge of providing access to medicines in low- to middle-income countries (LMICs).

This year’s report​ found that companies are now developing specific access strategies for LMICs, with three companies having issued new guidance or strengthened guidance. Pricing strategies have also become more nuanced – with intra-country pricing being developed to manage different populations’ ability to pay.

The report also dived into improvements made in manufacturing and distributions practices of the 20 companies selected, zoning into three areas: procedures and resources in place to manage drugs recalls, brochure and packaging information suitability to practitioners and patients, and companies’ support for country-specific supply and demand issues.

Managing recalls:​ The report notes that all 20 companies have either improved or maintained the standard of their drug recalls systems in LMICs.

In addition, eight companies use tools to track products through the supply chain in the relevant markets, which is an increase of four companies from previous findings.

Brochures and packaging: ​The top-performing companies in this regard, GSK, Johnson & Johnson, and Novartis, all tailor packaging and brochures to account for language, literacy and cultural needs. For instance, the report notes that these companies use halal labelling in predominantly Muslim countries.

Six further companies, beyond those mentioned, have also registered improvements in how they produce materials.

Supply and demand: ​More than half of the companies analysed in the report are taking proactive steps to align supply with demand in LMICs. This involves aligning supply on a global, regional and country-level with a projection of demand.

In particular, the report notes this involves:

1) Making efforts to understand product distribution and demand behaviour in countries in scope, beyond the point of first product handoff;

2) Applying this information to ensure sufficient, timely supply to these countries; and

3) Specific efforts to address supply to Least Developed Countries (LDCs), low-income countries and/or poor and rural population segments in countries within the Index scope.

The rankings

Manufacturing and distribution is just one factor of the Index’s ranking system, which also looks at R&D efforts for pressing health issues globally and how companies promote access, in terms of pricing and patent transparency.

The findings placed GSK at the top of the list, with Novartis, Johnson & Johnson, Merck KGaA and Takeda rounding out the top five.

Photo1_Overall ranking_Access to Medicine Index 2018

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