Social responsibility measure for health care: The 2010 Access to Medicine Index

accessimageeyesCan the pharmaceutical industry be socially responsible? Despite the important role that medicines play in health care, the public generally rates Big Pharma very low for trustworthiness and ethical behavior, somewhere between the tobacco industry and Big Oil. In some cases this lack of trust may be well placed, since certain industry practices run counter to the provision of quality health care. But other companies, notably GlaxoSmithKline, have shown their dedication to being good world citizens.

A relatively young organization based in the Netherlands is attempting to bring some level of corporate social responsibility (CSR) ranking to health care, unveiling its 2010 CSR rankings of major pharmaceutical manufacturers. The mission of the Access to Medicine Index (AMI) is “to advance access to medicine in developing countries by encouraging the pharmaceutical industry to accept a greater role towards improving access to medicine in less developed countries.” Hence their ranking system, based on the following criteria (and measures):

Medicine Management (Governance, stakeholder engagement)

Policy & Influence (Lobbying and advocacy, competitive & marketing behavior)

Research & Development (Innovation, adaptive R&D, intellectual property sharing)

Pricing & Distribution (Equitable pricing, marketing approval, manufacturing & distribution)

Patents & Licensing (Trade aspects, non-exclusivity)

Capability Advancements (in supply chain, production quality, R&D)

Donations & Philanthropy

Their overall rankings for 2010 (drum role, please):

1 GlaxoSmithKline PLC

2 Merck & Co. Inc.

3 Novartis AG

4 Gilead Sciences

5 Sanofi-Aventis

6 Roche Holdings Ltd.

7 AstraZeneca PLC

8 Novo Nordisk A/S

9 Johnson & Johnson

10 Abbott Laboratories Inc.

11 Pfizer Inc.

12 Boehringer-Ingelheim

13 Eli Lilly & Co.

14 Bayer AG

15 Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.

16 Eisai Co. Ltd.

17 Merck KGaA

18 Takeda Pharmaceutical Co.

19 Astellas Pharma Inc.

20 Daiichi Sankyo Co. Ltd.

Glaxo ranked #1 in every category, except Donations & Philanthropy, where Merck pushed them to second place.

Overall rankings for generics were:

1 Ranbaxy

2 Cipla

3 Dr. Reddy’s

4 Mylan

5 Sun Pharmaceuticals

6 Teva

The companies’ data were analyzed by RiskMetrics. For more detailed descriptions of the ranking criteria and rankings themselves, see the AMI website. These rankings are of course relative, and do not necessarily make any absolute statement about CSR within the pharmaceutical industry specifically or health care in general. They also do not allow you to compare this industry, or any specific company, with another health care sector, or another unrelated industry, such as petroleum or plastic manufacturers, bankers and financiers. And of course the measure used may or may not accurately reflect the values that are implied by the criteria they are associated with.

But overall, this type of ranking has many good attributes, and should be encouraged. Any honest exercise in measuring CSR will at very least encourage discussion and perhaps inspire further development. Working with industries that are often secretive, and viewed with suspicion can help increase transparency and responsible behavior. And lets face it, providing pharmaceutical manufacturers with some independent measures of their good works should be good news for everyone.

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