GSK, Merck tops at delivering meds to the poor

Who is doing the most to get medicines to the developing world? GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK), at least according to this year's Access to Medicines Index, with Merck, Novartis, Gilead Sciences and Sanofi-Aventis rounding out the top five.

This year's access index--which looks at pricing policies, R&D efforts, patents, access and more--includes six European companies in the top 10, with the remaining four from the U.S. Produced by a Dutch foundation and backed by institutional investors and funds that manage $3.1 trillion in assets--as Reuters notes--the index is designed to help investors compare drugmakers' social responsibility.

Access to drugs in emerging markets isn't only a social issue for drugmakers these days, but a key business strategy. Companies such as GSK and Sanofi have cut their prices in the developing world to help spur volume sales. Big Pharma has been buying up and partnering with drugmakers in Africa, India, China and Latin America.

As emerging markets continue to deliver the biggest growth prospects on the globe, no doubt access to Big Pharma drugs will continue to grow. "[E]merging markets are where the larger growth is," My-Linh Ngo, associate director of sustainable investments at Henderson, told the Financial Times. "Better access to medicines helps position them."

Looking at this year's top 10, we have Roche, AstraZeneca, Novo Nordisk, Johnson & Johnson, and Abbott Laboratories in sixth through tenth place. Among the rest are Pfizer, Bayer, Eli Lilly, and Boehringer Ingelheim. According to the foundation, Bayer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Merck KGaA and Novo Nordisk dropped in this year's rankings, while Gilead and Pfizer moved up.

- find the Access to Medicine release
- check out the FT article
- see the story at in-Pharm
- get more from Reuters