Two billion people across the globe do not have adequate access to health. We are striving to make health solutions affordable, raise awareness of diseases and help people learn how to manage them. We work with committed partners to tackle this complex challenge by researching innovative solutions, developing new approaches and improving existing programs to help people at the point of care.
Our approach to improving healthcare for underserved populations
Our aim is to create a healthier future for all: for individuals, communities and countries. We want to use innovation in science and technology to help improve the health of underserved populations in low- and middle-income countries. To achieve this, we leverage our expertise from all business sectors and collaborate closely with a wide range of partners. We also participate in industry-wide initiatives to develop new approaches.
Our Global Health strategy is designed to overcome access barriers for underserved populations and communities in low- and middle-income countries in an economically viable and sustainable manner, thereby creating shared value. For us, this means developing business models that increase the value and competitiveness of our company while solving unmet health needs and strengthening health systems. This leads to a win-win solution for our company and society as a whole.
We follow three core operating principles:
- Developing innovative solutions: We take a leading role in the elimination of schistosomiasis, and we create new integrated drug, diagnostics, technology and vector control solutions for schistosomiasis, malaria and other infectious diseases.
- Engaging with cross-sector partners: We participate in multi-stakeholder global health platforms to help achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. We define partnerships for research and development programs, utilize access alliances and create locally-based opportunities, where possible.
- Creating business opportunities via a shared value approach: We help to sustainably improve the health of underserved populations by utilizing our portfolio from across all three of our business sectors.
Using focus programs to address our priority areas, we want to be instrumental in the elimination of schistosomiasis while fighting malaria and other infectious diseases. Furthermore, we help build local capacity across the value chain and position our company as a leading and reliable partner.
Our global access to healthcare strategy rests on four major pillars that guide our access activities:
- Availability: We research, develop and refine health solutions that address unmet needs, tailoring them to local environments. For example, we are committed to delivering on our R&D portfolio of projects by developing and providing access to innovative health solutions that help tackle infectious diseases.
- Affordability: We seek to provide assistance to those who are unable to pay for the health solutions they need, for example through our patient access programs. This also includes addressing challenges regarding pricing and intellectual property. Furthermore, we are working on innovative access paths for health solutions to fight NTDs. For instance, we aim to ensure the future affordability of our new pediatric drug to treat schistosomiasis.
- Awareness: By empowering medical professionals, communities and patients to make informed decisions, we help raise awareness for diseases and therapies through efforts such as our global awareness campaigns.
- Accessibility: We promote initiatives that control the cost of goods during product development and production and allow for localized health solutions. We also strive to strengthen our supply chains to help ensure that medicines reach the people who need them quickly and safely, as demonstrated by our NTDeliver project.
How we are improving access to healthcare
Our Global Health unit coordinates the implementation of our strategy for global access to healthcare. Multiple teams work on ways to investigate and reduce the barriers that prevent underserved populations from receiving adequate healthcare.
This unit is also responsible for Group-wide initiatives, programs and sponsorships relating to global health topics. Our experts collaborate closely with the Healthcare, Life Science and Performance Materials business sectors to leverage their strengths and competencies effectively.
Our Global Health Institute develops and implements a portfolio of projects for transformative treatments, diagnostics, technologies, and preventive measures against infectious diseases. The institute also seeks to provide research and development capabilities by engaging in activities to help strengthen health systems in low- and middle-income countries. It operates as a social business enterprise to deliver innovations for the most vulnerable members of society, namely women and children in low- and middle-income communities.
Our Access to Health unit investigates the factors that prevent underserved populations from receiving healthcare and coordinates with multiple partners to identify and develop solutions.
Our commitment: Providing a solid basis for access to healthcare
To demonstrate our commitment to expanding access to healthcare, we publish a dedicated Access to Health Charter on our website. We updated the charter substantially in 2019 to reflect our strategy and approach in response to the latest developments in global health and access. This charter sets out guidelines on the following:
- Our approach (updated in 2019)
- Pharmaceutical product donations (updated in 2019)
- Fake medicines
- R&D for infectious diseases (updated in 2019)
- Pharmaceutical product pricing
- Intellectual property rights (updated in 2019)
Every two years, the Access to Medicine Foundation publishes the Access to Medicine Index. It benchmarks 20 of the world’s largest research-based pharmaceutical companies on activities and initiatives that experts consider most relevant for access to medicine, ranging from donations made and patents registered to capacity building. We use the ranking to inform and, in certain cases, guide our access to health strategy and approach. In 2018, we were ranked in fourth place, retaining our previous position. This was in recognition of our company’s integrated strategy on access to medicine, our efforts to address the needs of unserved and underserved populations across the entire value chain and our commitment to creating shared value.
We continue to endorse the London Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases, through which participating companies, governments and private organizations promise to help control and ultimately eliminate the top ten most prevalent infections. We are particularly engaged in the fight against schistosomiasis.
Partnering to build research capacity and clinical skills
Following our integrated approach to fighting infectious diseases, we have continued implementing a series of research programs on malaria and schistosomiasis. These programs mainly took place in Africa and involved post-doctoral and PhD fellows and local scientists. We also developed a training course for laboratory experts.
By acting as a host organization for the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) Fellowship Scheme, we are helping to empower African research fellows and enhance their clinical trial practices and management skills.
Partnerships and dialogue are vital to improving access to healthcare, and we aim for stakeholder dialogues with a relevant and scalable, far-reaching impact. Our partners include multinational organizations, government agencies and NGOs, as well as academic institutions, health industry associations, companies, and independent global health experts.
Alliances for better access to health
We are a member of the Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) initiative and endorse the BSR Guiding Principles on Access to Healthcare, which provide a framework for us to refine and enhance our Global Health efforts.
Together with 21 other leading pharmaceutical companies, we host the global Access Accelerated initiative, which seeks to improve both the treatment and prevention of non-communicable diseases in low- and middle-income countries. We also joined forces with advocacy groups such as the Swiss Malaria Group, which aims to positively influence access paths.
Our Access Dialogue Series is a multi-stakeholder platform for sharing information and exchanging best practices on broadening access to healthcare. We harness the ideas shared through the series to inform and drive our access strategy, plan of action and engagements. In this way, we create transparent, insightful and critical dialogue on how we and our partners can best use our respective capacities, experience, expertise, and competencies to sustainably address access barriers. In 2019, we hosted an event on supply chains and delivery where we met with internal and external experts to share information and discuss our company’s engagement.
Discussions at a global level
We take part in many events with a global reach or relevance in order to participate in and advance global health discussions. We engage with major stakeholders in a dialogue on infectious diseases and deepen collaborations with the scientific community through publications and by taking on leading roles at international scientific conferences and events.
In 2019, we participated in multiple events and initiatives, some of which are listed below:
- Conference on Tropical Medicine and Global Health in Munich (Germany), April
- World Malaria Day, April
- 72nd World Health Assembly in Geneva (Switzerland), including the side event “Leaving no one behind: from philanthropy to sustainable health solutions. How can local manufacturing be part of an integrated approach to tackling NTDs and advancing Universal Health Coverage?”, May
- 7th International Conference on P.Vivax Research in Paris (France), June
- High-level meeting between CEO Healthcare (Executive Board member of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany) and the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), July
- 74th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York (USA), September
- Access Dialogue Series of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany: Supply Chain & Delivery, September
- COR-NTD on Female Genital Schistosomiasis in Liverpool (UK), September
- 11th European Congress on Tropical Medicine and International Health in Liverpool (UK), September
- Annual NTD NGO Network Meeting in Liverpool (UK), September
- WHO-WIPO-WTO Trilateral Symposium on “Cutting-Edge Health Technologies: Opportunities and Challenges”, October
- Joint UNICEF, UNFPA and WHO meeting with manufacturers and suppliers in Copenhagen (Denmark), December