Drug giant GlaxoSmithKline pledges cheap medicine for world’s poor
The world’s second biggest pharmaceutical company is to radically shift its attitude to providing cheap drugs to millions of people in the developing world.
In a major change of strategy, the new head of GlaxoSmithKline, Andrew Witty, has told the Guardian he will slash prices on all medicines in the poorest countries, give back profits to be spent on hospitals and clinics and – most ground-breaking of all – share knowledge about potential drugs that are currently protected by patents.
Witty says he believes drug companies have an obligation to help the poor get treatment. He challenges other pharmaceutical giants to follow his lead…
Drug companies have been repeatedly criticised for failing to drop their prices for HIV drugs while millions died in Africa and Asia. Since then, campaigners have targeted them for defending the patents, which keep their prices high, while attempting to crush competition from generic manufacturers, who undercut them dramatically in countries where patents do not apply…
“We work like crazy to come up with the next great medicine, knowing that it’s likely to get used an awful lot in developed countries, but we could do something for developing countries. Are we working as hard on that? I want to be able to say yes we are, and that’s what this is all about – trying to make sure we are even-handed in terms of our efforts to find solutions not just for developed but for developing countries,” he said.
“I think the shareholders understand this and it’s my job to make sure I can explain it. I think we can. I think it’s absolutely the kind of thing large global companies need to be demonstrating, that they’ve got a more balanced view of the world than short-term returns.”
Overdue; but, worthwhile. It took a couple decades of pressure. But, I admit I know nothing about Witty’s background and personal politics.
I’d like to think he stepped back and looked at history and weighed it against his corporate balance sheet – and decided that people before profits also helps guarantee good business around the whole world for a very long time.
UPDATE: GSK is releasing their library of malaria research as Open Source to the world.