NEWS - The COVID-19 Crisis: An Opportunity for Pharmaceutical Companies to Demonstrate That They Are Driving Long-term Value Creation by Improving Access to Medicine

Published on April 16, 2021

Among the ESG issues that we discuss with pharmaceutical companies, access to medicine is an important one. Companies in this sector have a central role to play in reducing barriers to access to medicine around the world. This issue affects countries with emerging economies as well as higher-income countries in which many disparities exist. It is important for investors to ensure that companies adequately manage the risks and opportunities associated with access to medicine. Appropriate policies and practices in this area limit the risk of damage to reputation as well as the risk of legal action while promoting growth in emerging markets by reaching new populations.

The COVID-19 pandemic that has hit the world on a global scale reminds us that we cannot conceive a prosperous and sustainable economy without taking into account access to healthcare and medication for all populations. The economic fabric has already been deeply affected and the pandemic continues to have a significant impact on social and economic well-being globally. To limit such impact pharmaceutical companies have a leading role in the production and the universal, equitable and rapid distribution of vaccines and treatments. Low-and middle-income countries must absolutely be supported. COVID-19 will not be brought under control until all countries are in a position to control pockets of infection. In high-income countries, including the United States and Canada, it is the most vulnerable populations such as visible minorities that have been most affected by the pandemic. Poor living conditions, front-line jobs and barriers to access to health services underscore the need for an equitable access to health care. Collaboration between companies, governments and international organizations must be optimal in order to fight effectively against this pandemic and those to come. Finally, it is important that despite the urgency of the situation, the development and validation processes are robust in order to offer safe treatments.

Whether it concerns access to medicine in general or more precisely access to vaccines and treatments linked to COVID-19 and preparation for future pandemics, the Access to Medicine Foundation offers us key data to assess and compare the companies against each other and year on year. One of the key findings from the 2021 Access to medicine Index highlights the lack of preparedness of the pharmaceutical sector in anticipation of a potential new pandemic. The current crisis offers companies in this sector the opportunity to highlight their ESG priorities and more generally their approach and practices promoting the creation of long-term value for themselves, their investors and society as a whole.

Arnaud Celka, Head of Research

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