New methodology for the 2024 Access to Medicine Index promises a stronger attempt to quantify whether drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics are actually making it all the way to patients in poorer countries around the world.
Industry stakeholders eagerly await the biennial publication of the Access to Medicine Index, a comprehensive analysis and ranking of how global biopharma’s biggest players are performing across a range of patient access indicators in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). The 2022 Index showed the ways in which Big Pharma stepped up its efforts to address access to medicine issues following the COVID-19 pandemic, with all 20 of the companies within its scope reporting defined access strategies and 19 including access in their overall company strategies. GSK topped the 2022 ranking, followed by J&J and AstraZeneca.
If the vision of the globe’s top industry executives is truly for every patient to have access to a drug, no matter their location or socioeconomic status, then this methodology will be extremely important
Jay Iyer, CEO, Access to Medicine Foundation
However, in the hope of providing a more accurate and nuanced picture of persisting patient access gaps in LMICs, the organization behind the Index – Netherlands-headquartered non-profit, the Access to Medicine Foundation – has today released an update to its methodology for the 2024 Index. In conversation with PharmaBoardroom last week, the Foundation’s CEO Jay Iyer explained that while the 2022 Index showed that the industry has made progress in widening the scale and scope of their access to medicine efforts in LMICs, progress remains uneven, with many people still not receiving basic, essential healthcare.
To address this, Iyer highlighted the increased focus on monitoring ‘patient reach’ in the 2024 methodology, an indicator settled upon “after engaging with various stakeholders, from the World Health Organisation to patient organisations, NGOs, governments, and investors to arrive at a multi-stakeholder consensus.”
Standardising Patient Reach
Patient reach is a concept that has been in the industry ether for several years, but up to this point has not been sufficiently quantifiable. However, to perform well in the 2024 Index, companies will need to have a process in place for measuring patient reach that:
a) Is publicly available in terms of underlying methodology (equation/metrics/assumptions/limitations)
b) extends across the company’s portfolio, for diseases within the scope of the Index
c) covers all countries within the scope of the Index, where the company’s products are sold
d) regularly reports resulting patient reach numbers publicly, and
e) incorporates clear goals and objectives to measure and improve patient reach and associated health outcomes over time and can demonstrate such improvements.
“We are trying to get companies to be more standardised on patient reach,” says Iyer. “Do they measure it? Do they have a process in place? Is this based on data or assumptions? Does it span their entire portfolio or is it very specific to two or three diseases where they have patient support programmes in place?”
Embracing a New Methodology
Iyer feels that the 2024 Index Methodology “marks the first step in a long-term plan to help companies and other global health stakeholders identify gaps in access, address disparities, and promote accountability for improving health equity and access to medicine in LMICs.”
She continues with some advice for global pharma. “If the vision of the globe’s top industry executives is truly for every patient to have access to a drug, no matter their location or socioeconomic status, then this methodology will be extremely important. Companies need to embrace this methodology to understand whether their products are making it all the way to patients or not. Equity gaps will not be solved unless these organisations put their minds, hearts, staff, and infrastructure towards this important goal.”