In commemoration of World Health Day 2014 on April 7, the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) released its Statement of Principles and Recommended Corporate Practices to Promote Global Health. The document, endorsed by over 80 organizations, articulates ICCR members’ views regarding the social responsibilities of the pharmaceutical sector to address the human right to health by promoting access, availability, affordability, and infrastructure required to deliver life-saving medicines where they are most needed.
The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights make clear companies’ responsibility to respect, protect and remedy human rights within their global supply chains. ICCR believes the pharmaceutical industry has a pivotal role to play in respecting and protecting the human right to health.
The launch of ICCR’s Principles coincided with an announcement of a new licensing agreement between the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) and ViiV Healthcare relating to ViiV’s breakthrough antiretroviral dolutegravir. The agreement enables affordable access to a vital new drug for both adults and children living with HIV, and covers developing countries where 93 percent of adults and 99 percent of children living with HIV reside.
The Medicines Patent Pool, which encourages sharing of HIV/AIDS formulations to facilitate their manufacture by generics companies, is a good example of the type of socially responsible practice that ICCR’s Global Health Principles recommend. Established in 2010 through funding from UNITAID, the MPP has been endorsed by the World Health Organization, the UN High Level Meeting on AIDS, and the G8 as a promising approach to improve access to HIV medicines.
The MPP negotiates with pharmaceutical companies to share their HIV medicine patents with the Pool, and then licenses generic manufacturers to facilitate the production of affordable generic medicines well adapted for use in resource-poor settings. The Medicines Patent Pool has concluded agreements with Gilead, ViiV Healthcare, Roche, and BMS and is in negotiations with AbbVie for pediatric formulations of a key HIV medicine. ViiV Healthcare has a previous agreement with the MPP on its pediatric drug abacavir.
At a 2008 multi-stakeholder roundtable on increasing access to medicines, co-convened by ICCR, faith-based and socially responsible investors and public health organizations pointed out that in order to arrive at a sustainable business model in developing and emerging markets, the pharmaceutical industry must develop new ways to approach the three core elements of its traditional business model: pricing; research and development; and intellectual property. A number of pharmaceutical companies at the roundtable agreed that new approaches were needed.
Another roundtable in 2011focused on the Medicines Patent Pool and called on drug companies manufacturing AIDS drugs to join the Pool. Subsequent shareholder dialogues with the companies and the ongoing need to address barriers to access to health led ICCR to develop the Global Health Principles.
ICCR members will use these principles and an accompanying set of recommended practices in their future dialogues with pharmaceutical companies. They will also measure companies’ performance in relation to the recommended practices.
ICCR Global Health Principles
1. Access and affordability: Global health business models must promote access to health for all, and be equitable and affordable, regardless of one’s country or resources.
2. Innovative research and development models: Companies must develop new models that address critical global health needs, including non-communicable diseases, HIV/TB/malaria and neglected tropical diseases that impact the most vulnerable.
3. Ethical business practices: Companies must develop, implement, and monitor a global code of conduct that incorporates responsible marketing practices, anti-bribery corruption measures, fair clinical trials, and robust oversight of supply chain management programs.
4. Community investment: Pharmaceutical companies working with communities, the private sector and other stakeholders must find solutions to overcome barriers to improving a country’s health system infrastructure and supply chain distribution.
5. Partnerships and collaboration: Companies must increase collaboration within the pharmaceutical industry and with other stakeholders to share knowledge and resources to develop and implement access to health initiatives.
6. Transparency and disclosure: Companies must increase transparency and disclosure on access strategies, health outcomes, public policy positions and lobbying activities in order to demonstrate responsible corporate citizenship and enable investors and other stakeholders to hold companies accountable.