Our aim is for every person who needs our diagnostics and medicines to be able to access and benefit from them. After all, our ground-breaking advances in medical science are only meaningful when they reach the people who need them.

However, not everyone has access to the latest healthcare, and far too many people either have no access to healthcare at all or access to only very basic levels of healthcare.

Furthermore, because of lack of disease awareness in many areas, even when people do visit their doctor, it is often at a late stage of disease, significantly reducing the chance of achieving the best outcome.

The level of access to healthcare varies widely from country to country, and even within countries. The inequalities are increasing due to a rise in chronic diseases, combined with an ageing population, increased unemployment and economic pressures.

Why isn’t this easy to solve?

Access to healthcare is a multidimensional challenge and there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution.

Improving one aspect of healthcare is often not enough. For example, improving access to a hospital for a cancer patient is only beneficial if there are trained oncologists and nurses on-hand with the necessary equipment. Similarly, improving access to a diagnostic test for a disease is only effective if it is accompanied by the relevant education and awareness.

And when it comes to the more complex treatments, such as those used for cancer, the level of sophistication required for successful treatment, whether for diagnosis, specialised training or hospital infrastructure, becomes even more pronounced.

What is our approach to improve access?

We address the multidimensional challenge of access through focussing on four key areas:

  1. Awareness
  2. Diagnosis
  3. Healthcare capacity
  4. Funding

Because of the complexity involved with access to medicine, and because barriers to access can differ significantly from country to country, we believe they have to be tackled at the local level. This means identifying the unique barriers that exist in a particular country – or even particular regions of that country – and developing a specially tailored plan to tackle them.

This is exactly what we do. We have now developed comprehensive access plans for over 70 countries, finding meaningful and pragmatic solutions in each.

But we cannot tackle the barriers by ourselves. Partnerships are absolutely vital to making a difference.

Women in a Peruvian hospital receiving their chemotherapy.
These women receiving their treatment is the result of successful collaboration among different partners in Peru.

Who do we partner with to improve access?

When different types of stakeholders work together, more can be achieved.

We work with national governments and public authorities, non-governmental organisations, local communities, patient organisations and other pharmaceutical and diagnostics companies, on a wide range of initiatives.

A good example is our work in HIV/AIDS in Africa, where we have implemented the largest infant testing programme in the world featuring a dried blood sampling diagnostic technique. To date, over seven million infants have been tested for HIV through this programme, and it was helped tremendously by our partnership with UNAIDS, the Clinton Health Access Initiative, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the Global Fund.

We also work with other pharmaceutical companies to make a difference. We support and co-lead an industry partnership called Access Accelerated, which brings together more than 20 biopharmaceutical companies to tackle access to treatment of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) – such as cancer and heart disease.

How do we ensure it makes a difference?

There is no point in implementing short-term fixes.

Tackling access is a long-term commitment. When we plan an access initiative or enter an agreement with local partners, we do so with a view to making long-standing fundamental change.

We know that our solutions have a lasting impact because they are so specifically tailored to the individual situation in a particular country.  

We have already seen so many positive changes as a direct result of the work we are doing with partners all over the world. Millions of people have been able to access healthcare, medicines and diagnostic tests as a result of these initiatives.

In order to measure and track outcomes we started to formulate concrete access goals for some of our key medicines. In 2013, we developed a goal to increase access to standard of care treatment in blood cancer (MabThera) and breast cancer (Herceptin) in 14 low and middle income countries representing 4 billion people. Herceptin and MabThera are the first biologic cancer medicines that are listed on the WHO Model Lists of Essential Medicines. By the end of 2017, the goal had helped us to increase our access by 50% from where we were back in 2013. This means 600 million more people in these emerging markets can benefit from Herceptin and MabThera in case they are diagnosed with the respective diseases.

We have recently expanded our focus to also include Perjeta as the new standard of care in combination with Herceptin for women with HER2 positive breast cancer. Our goal is to accelerate our access and increase the number of patients being treated with Herceptin plus Perjeta in 15 emerging markets by a factor of 6 from 5,900 (2017) to 35,700 (2022) – meaning about 800 million more people can benefit from the treatment in case they are diagnosed with the respective disease.

But it is just the start. There is so much more we can do and will do. We are working on a wide range of access programmes all over the world, with thousands of partners.

Do you want to learn more about our approach to tackle these challenges? Click here: 

Tags: Society, Patients, Access to healthcare