Big Pharma including Pfizer, Sanofi meet to fight noncommunicable diseases around the world

Big pharma is coming together to advance noncommunicable disease care in the developing world. An initiative called Access Accelerated brings together more than 20 of the largest pharma companies to address NCDs such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes in low-income and lower-middle income areas of the world. Other partners include World Bank and the Union of International Cancer Control.

Nine of the participating companies—Astellas, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eisai, Merck KGaA, Pfizer, Roche, Sanofi, Shionogi and Daiichi-Sankyo—presented some of the programs they’ve already begun at a United Nations General Assembly event recently held at McCann. Pfizer, for instance, is working with nonprofit organization Population Services International in Myanmar and Vietnam to improve diagnosis and treatment of hypertension, while Astellas is introducing a program in India for patients with cancer to improve affordability and better access to treatments.

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“The story in the developing world, even within the pharmaceutical industry, for decades has been about tropical diseases, infectious diseases, and the things that can be prevented by vaccination,” Andrew Schirmer, president of McCann Global Health, said.

But that focus is shifting as developing countries modernize and begin living more Western lifestyles. With that change comes an increase in “lifestyle-driven conditions” like heart disease and diabetes, he said. Cancer is another concern for Access Accelerated because so many countries lack widespread early screening capabilities.

“The pharmaceutical industry has been getting involved in NCD care around the world, but for the first time the industry has come together in a consortium where they’re teaming up in this fight,” Schirmer said. “… The whole idea is, 'what can the pharmaceutical community do against this significant problem by working together even though they remain fierce competitors?'”

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Access Accelerated was announced in January, and although no joint programs have been launched yet, the many companies that are individually already working on NCD issues globally joined so that they could pool efforts and resources to create shared value in tackling these big issues, Schirmer said.