In light of the recent G7 Summit 2021, where the COVID-19 pandemic was understandably the overarching point of discussions, I was reminded about the key role our industry is playing in this health and economic crisis. This pandemic, the like of which has not been seen in over 100 years, has cost too many lives and put many more at risk.
Yet, the promise of medical innovation brings hope each day. A number of vaccines and treatments are already approved for use in health systems worldwide, and many more are being developed, including antibody treatments from companies like mine, Bristol Myers Squibb, among others. As countries begin to reopen, glimmers of pre-pandemic life appear. Still COVID-19 and its variants continue to affect many, especially those in low- and middle-income countries.
While we have more to do to ensure patients around the world have access to vaccines and treatments, I am encouraged by the progress of our innovation and the speed of our delivery, which is the result of unparalleled, swift collaboration between members of the global biopharmaceutical community, healthcare professionals, governments and health systems. I am hopeful our advancements mean the pandemic’s effects will soon subside in every corner of the globe.
I am also reminded of the importance of organizations like the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA) for their ability to convene the world’s best biopharmaceutical innovators and leaders to inform and facilitate global thinking and drive urgent action on how to confront major health issues – from COVID-19 to cancer. Learnings from the past year will help inform the next chapter of close collaboration and medical innovation as we seek to address diseases and conditions for patients across the world.
For example, IFPMA has found success in leading multi-stakeholder approaches to combating COVID-19 and supporting efforts to address non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in low-and middle-income countries (LMICs):
- As a founding member of the ACT-Accelerator, of which the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility (COVAX) is a key pillar and driver of research and development, we have learned how to bring together the needed expertise to expedite scaling up manufacturing and the supply chain to unprecedented levels.
- Via Access Accelerated, a unique cross-industry collaboration of 24 biopharmaceutical companies, including Bristol Myers Squibb, we have delivered results in reducing barriers to prevention, treatment and care for NCDs in LMICs through health systems by strengthening and aligning with Universal Health Coverage objectives and priorities.
These efforts are great examples of how we can take on the complexities of global drug discovery, development and delivery, and collaboratively work across the industry with governments and NGOs, and other key stakeholders to find solutions.
As we look towards the future, the IFPMA and the biopharmaceutical industry are addressing a number of key areas including:
- COVID-19 with collaborative and proactive efforts which we’ve been tracking against our industry commitments since the beginning of the pandemic and more recently announced five steps to urgently advance vaccine equity.
- The central role that the biopharmaceutical industry and the innovation eco-system play in tackling any future pandemics, and solutions needed for a more robust global healthcare architecture to better protect and secure societies and health systems.
- The recent backing of the 100 Days Mission by G7 leaders and biopharmaceutical companies, which aims to ensure diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines in just 100 days after the next pandemic, is a promising step forward for patient-centred collaboration in this space.
- As the World Health Organization considers the International Pandemic Treaty, it will be important for leaders to understand the role of our industry as part of its multi-sector preparedness plan.
- Health systems’ efficiency and sustainability, working to strengthen patient access to healthcare and medicines globally as the economic fallout of COVID-19 continues.
- Advocating for the drivers of innovation for all medicines, including intellectual property protections, which are essential for continued biopharmaceutical innovation necessary to address current and future unmet medical and health needs.
These issues require smart thinking, multi-disciplinary collaboration, a global mindset and local expertise.
I am proud to represent Bristol Myers Squibb as Council Chair of the IFPMA as I believe it is an essential platform for our industry to work together and speak with one unified voice. Through meaningful partnerships and collaboration with other stakeholders, we can better promote the discovery and development of innovative medicines for patients worldwide and tackle access barriers to healthcare in pursuit of global health equity. Together we do more for patients and society.