I recently attended an Access to Medicine Index (ATMI) presentation organized by Amundi Asset Management. The event gathered mainstream and socially responsible investors, healthcare stakeholders, and several pharmaceutical companies to hear the Access to Medicine Foundation team present its 2014 results. The Index—recently voted the third most credible sustainability rating behind CDP and the Dow Jones Sustainability Index—evaluates the world’s top 20 healthcare companies by market capitalization on their approaches to access to medicine.

Last month, BSR released a report that marked the first anniversary of the launch of our Guiding Principles on Access to Healthcare (GPAH), a set of industry-wide principles and approaches to help reduce the global burden of disease and improve global health outcomes. In reading the ATMI 2014, I looked for findings that resonated with BSR’s approach to access to healthcare through the GPAH and the work we conduct with members of BSR’s Healthcare Working Group. Here are three highlights from the ATMI:

  • Pharmaceutical companies are doing more to improve access to medicine. The ATMI’s conclusion confirms the findings in our recent report about the work conducted by GPAH signatories (all of whom are listed in the ATMI 2014). Our report, however, also questioned whether the level of activity actually equals progress. Discussions at the ATMI event corroborated that tracking progress  and measuring impact is indeed still a struggle. We see a clear opportunity for the sector to work together with stakeholders to define a set of meaningful metrics that will help assess achievements.
  • The industry is responding to the need for “child-tailored” medicine. Although opportunities for progress still remain, ATMI’s point corroborates our finding that when companies connect their strategies to global health agendas, they can drive collective progress. In this instance, several GPAH signatories are contributing to the Millennium Development Goals around child health and responding to the World Health Organization’s call for action in 2006 to improve access to essential medicines for children. Going forward, we see a huge opportunity for the industry to take an active role in the post-2015 sustainable development agenda.
  • Connecting to the business is key. The ATMI 2014 found that companies are developing innovative, access-oriented business models—for instance, by tailoring their pricing strategies. BSR’s work has found that sustainable initiatives that link to tangible business benefits are more likely to be viable in the long term. Companies that tailor their price strategies to take into account socioeconomic factors, which can vary widely within one country, give themselves access to previously untapped market segments and give more patients access to their medicines. This is proof that business success can be intrinsically connected to improving access to healthcare.

The work that BSR conducts with its healthcare member companies, the Guiding Principles on Access to Healthcare, and the work of the ATMI are all small pieces of a large puzzle that, when put together, contribute to increasing access to healthcare. With our 2015 action plan, BSR and the Healthcare Working Group look forward to contributing a few more pieces to the puzzle.