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International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations

© GlaxoSmithKline

  • Experience worldwide has shown that multi-stakeholder initiatives have proven to be the most efficient and effective way of improving health status with regard to the problem of access to quality medicines, particularly where there is significant poverty.
  • Strong, effective health systems are vital to helping those in need of access to medicines, and health care improvements made today will strengthen the ability of countries to develop sustainable systems that can meet tomorrow's challenges.
  • Poverty is the single biggest barrier to improving healthcare in the developing world. In many countries people do not have enough food, access to a clean water supply, hospitals or clinics in which to receive treatment, and healthcare professionals to care for them. The reason for the lack of access is complex and includes several factors: social and political stability, financial hurdles, lack of infrastructure and weak supply chains, cost management issues, and information gaps.
  • The research-based pharmaceutical industry contributes to improved global health in three ways. Firstly, through researching and developing new medicines and vaccines alone or in partnership. Secondly, IFPMA companies are engaged in a number of different access programmes featuring donations, capacity building, education and training, preferential pricing schemes, voluntary licenses, non-assert declarations, and transfer of technology. Finally, it contributes through good governance by respecting good manufacturing practices and ethical standards, guaranteeing high quality, safety and efficacy of medicines and vaccines, and complying with stringent regulatory requirements.


Research-based pharmaceutical companies take many practical initiatives to improve access to medicines in developing countries. They work alone or in partnerships with different stakeholders to make their products more accessible to poor communities via donations of high quality medicines or through differential pricing schemes. Also, a number of companies are committed to licensing their technologies to quality generic producers, while many others commit to expanding their own production and distribution capacities to meet the needs of patients.

In many countries, the medicines and vaccines created by the research-based pharmaceutical industry are made available to patients through health care systems, which may be national or regional in scope and may be primarily provided by the state or by the private sector. Even in the latter case, there is usually a considerable funding contribution by government. The industry recognizes that, in many parts of the world, much still needs to be done to build better health care infrastructures for the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and follow-up of a broad range of diseases.

Many countries lack the physical infrastructure - roads, transportation, electricity, communication capability and a clean water supply - needed to operate an effective health care system. Impassable roads and weak transportation systems block patients, providers and medicines from reaching health facilities. And electrical outages prevent hospitals from functioning effectively and vaccines to go unrefrigerated, rendering them unusable. Equal attention must be given to strengthening medicines procurement, storage and distribution systems. Research-based pharmaceutical companies also provide training in clinical trials and manufacturing, strengthen the professional knowledge of healthcare workers, support regulatory and health care infrastructure, and provide educational grants and fund health information campaigns.

The generic industry also plays an important role in ensuring global access to medicines, since more than 95% of the World Health Organization’s designated list of essential medicines consists of off-patent products. Under competitive conditions, the generic industry’s products can reflect their relatively lower cost structure, as this industry does not need to recover the originator’s significant research and development costs. However, in some countries, per capita income levels are so low that neither discounted original nor generic-copy medicines can be afforded by patients without additional financial support. It is critical, therefore, to secure needed supplemental financing from international donors or national governments.

Access to pharmaceuticals can be defined as the timely availability, subject to economic and physical conditions, of quality, safe and effective medicines to those patients who need them. Many intertwined factors determine the level of access to quality medicines, such as the availability of financial resources, government policies, infrastructure conditions, private and public sector insurance programs, appropriate use, supply management and manufacturing capacity.