How Can Pharma Progress the Sustainable Development Goals?

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Richard Saynor, Senior Vice President, Classic and Established Products at GSK urges big pharma to weigh in on improving global health and well-being to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. 

On the part of pharmaceutical companies, we have a responsibility to help people gain access to high-quality healthcare and the medicines that they need, no matter where they live in the world or how much they can afford.

 

When thinking about the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – Goal 3 speaks specifically of improving access to medicines for patients who need them most and ensuring healthy lives for all – I am mindful of the heavy lift we have ahead as an industry.

More than 2 billion people in the world still do not have access to essential medicines, according to a report by the UN Secretary General.

 

Closing this gap will require the combined efforts of multiple parties. Countries are currently working to strengthen many aspects of health systems while governments are increasingly re-evaluating how these systems are financed through the Universal Health Care Concept (UHC). The UHC is a global ambition but not without local challenges that may take some time to fully realise due to variations in country development, patient expectations, and other factors.

 

On the part of pharmaceutical companies, we have a responsibility to help people gain access to high-quality healthcare and the medicines that they need, no matter where they live in the world or how much they can afford.

 

To treat more patients and ensure future sustainability, fair and responsible pricing is essential. Flexibility in differentiating prices, taking into consideration country-specific circumstances such as patient affordability, local healthcare systems and other social and economic factors, will help broaden access to quality medicines.

 

Beyond access, as new threats to global health arise, we must be ready to meet these challenges. The spread of antibiotic resistance, exacerbated by the misuse of antibiotics and poor infection prevention, is an example where there is much to be done.

 

According to the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, an estimated 700,000 people across the globe die each year of drug resistance in illnesses such as bacterial infections, malaria, HIV/AIDS or tuberculosis. Without action, up to 10 million people could die from drug-resistant infections every year by 2050.

 

This is where a holistic approach and a collaborative global response, involving pharmaceutical companies, the scientific community, policymakers, healthcare funders and professionals, as well as other stakeholders, will make a difference. As we strive to raise public awareness and encourage preventive actions at every level, the industry will need to keep seeking relevant and novel ways to effectively accelerate this.

 

Looking to the future, capacity building is not just about improving access to medicines, it is also about patient empowerment and activating communities at the local level to take charge of their health and wellness activities. This includes leveraging technology and digital platforms as well as forming more nimble partnerships in the years to come.

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