E-DRUG: Access to Medicines Index (2)
HAI response to the Access to Medicines Index
Scratching the surface of Corporate Social Responsibility
The Access to Medicines Foundation's new index turns out to be less
groundbreaking and more of a mild tremor. The index set out to be a
transparent, quantifiable comparison of corporate social responsibility
(CSR) for twenty pharmaceutical companies. What we have is an attractive
new business tool for big pharma. The index has taken a strictly
business approach to measuring access to essential medicines, presenting
data collected from the giant pharmaceutical companies while overlooking
crucial information from end-users and local consumers - patients in
The core approach of the index, published by a foundation led by a
former industry marketing consultant, assesses the pharmaceutical
companies on a five point scale according to criteria developed by a
Dutch investment research consultancy. The weakness of the study lies in
its 'on paper' approach to measuring the effectiveness of the CSR
programmes. Moreover, the methodology leaves the results vulnerable to
attack. The index is based on information made available by
stakeholders, pharmaceutical companies and a few NGOs, with the largest
input coming from surveys of the pharmaceutical industry itself.
Five multinational pharmaceutical companies take the top spots in the
index while generic manufacturers languish nearer the bottom of the
list, despite doing more to improve access to essential medicines for
the world's poor through lowering drug prices. This index may give a
financial boost to the big brands and their 'socially-conscious'
investors but it cannot achieve its objective of real improvements in
access to essential medicine in developing countries.
The aspiration to produce a quantifiable study of CSR standards is
laudable. However, measuring access to essential medicines is best
achieved by looking at both pharmaceutical policy and the view on the
ground. Without accompanying data on the effectiveness of pharmaceutical
CSR policy, the value of the index is at best debatable. Having the
rules is not the same as playing by the rules. What we need is a
comprehensive analysis of industry performance on access to essential
medicines that rewards impact rather than rhetoric and promotes health
outcomes rather than investment incentives.
The weakness of the methodology for the Access to Medicines Index has
prompted criticism from both ends of spectrum, from the NGO sector to
the pharma industry itself.
Financial Times- HAI Letter to the Editor
Financial Times- Letter to Editor from the President of the Pfizer