Gilead latest pharma to join 2020 trend donating money and amping efforts to fight health inequality

Gilead Sciences is joining the pharma industry's list of pledges to address health inequities, extending its ongoing work to fight inequality. The company's $10 million in grants will stretch over three years and contribute to 20 organizations tackling inequality in the Black community.

Gilead's recently announced Racial Equity Community Impact Fund plans to fight social injustice in Black communities by focusing on three areas where it says it can have the most impact: funding community advocacy and mobilization, working with historically Black colleges and universities and supporting Black students from “cradle to career."

In deciding which groups to fund, Gilead conducted national research to assess the results organizations had delivered in their communities. They chose 20. While aimed specifically at the Black community, the projects will also benefit other marginalized and vulnerable groups.

RELATED: Gilead, Morehouse track health inequities in communities of color using COVID-19 data

“This is, for many of them, the largest donation that they have received for their organization. So, we are happy, and they are thrilled to be part of this community impact fund,” said Shanell McGoy, director of corporate social responsibility at Gilead.

This project builds on previous Gilead contributions, including its 10-year, $100 million COMPASS (Commitment to Partnership in Addressing HIV/AIDS in Southern States) Initiative, as well as a $1 million partnership with the Morehouse School of Medicine to research demographic disparities in health and a separate $4.5 million grant for transgender advocacy groups.

While pharma companies have a long history of philanthropy, the dramatic and disproportionate toll of COVID-19 on Black Americans and other people of color in 2020 along with startling displays of racism and renewed social justice activism have propelled companies into action.

Other drugmakers that have pledged this year include AbbVie, which is donating $50 million over five years to promote health and education equality. The company recently announced three commitments of $28 million total as part of that effort. Those include $10 million to Direct Relief to improve healthcare services in underserved Black communities; $10 million to UNCF Healthcare Diversity Workforce Program to increase the number of Black professionals in health professions; and $8 million to the University of Chicago's Urban Health Initiative to help local teams promote access to care and resources in the city's South Side area.

Last month, Johnson & Johnson earmarked $100 million over the next five years to help communities and people of color. Its focus is on local communities, and it plans to expand on current partnerships with local organizations and add partnerships with new ones. The effort includes work within the company, too, broadening efforts toward diversity in hiring and in promotions to upper management.

RELATED: Bristol Myers Squibb takes on racial inequality with $300M pledge to up diversity, improve healthcare access

Bristol Myers Squibb has also pledged $300 million over the next five years to tackle health disparities and improve diversity in its own business. The company aims to hire more people of color, increase clinical trial diversity, raise awareness of disease and improve access to healthcare for medically underserved populations globally.

As Douglas Brooks, Gilead's executive director for community engagement and former lead adviser on domestic HIV/AIDS to President Barack Obama, told Fierce Pharma earlier this year: “We sometimes think of these persistent disparities as intractable, and they’re not. We just have to have the will to build the systems, structures and trusted relationships to make the changes we need to make a difference and promote health equity."

2020 showed the world, including pharma, that racial inequities in healthcare can't be ignored. The good news is many pharma companies decided to take more definitive steps to do something about it—donating money, working with historically black colleges and universities, revamping their own internal policies, setting up specific funds and hiring more people of color. And it's likely even more will continue to join.

As John Damonti, president of the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation, said: “People have come to the awareness this year that not only are these profound issues, but we need to do something about it."