How the Access to Medicine Foundation is raising the bar for Index making

Advancements in targeted data collection; New workshops for turning insights into action

The Foundation’s sixth Index cycle is proving to be its most innovative – here is a brief rundown of the groundwork laid for the next Access to Medicine Index and new approaches for digging into the practical steps companies are taking to improve access to medicine.

The Foundation has now reached the half-way mark on the path to the 2018 Access to Medicine Index. “With every step taken this year, we have raised the bar, working toward getting the right data with a rich level of detail for the next Index so we can report in depth on what the different pharmaceutical companies are doing and how,” says Danny Edwards, Research Programme Manager for the Access to Medicine Index. “For example, this year, we brought cancer into the scope of the Index for the first time.”

The Index questionnaire is the longest-running survey of pharmaceutical companies regarding access to medicine. It is reviewed for each Index and, each time, our team rises to the challenge of keeping it concise and to the point, focused on those areas that matter most for access to medicine. Its data requests are designed to capture the level of detail needed to report accurately. Danny: “Good data takes time to collect. That’s why we make it a priority to make our data requests as early, clear and concise as possible, and to make them manageable for companies’ reporting teams to complete within the data-collection timeframe.

The Foundation also works to ensure our data-collection is aligned with other reporting and standard-setting initiatives. “Pharmaceutical companies are involved in many different reporting streams, including a variety of ESG and sustainability initiatives,” says Damiano de Felice, Director of Strategy. “At the moment, we are working with the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board and with our signatory investors to ensure a strong alignment between the indicators of the Access to Medicine Index and the metrics of the final SASB Standard for the Biotechnology and Pharmaceuticals Industry.”

More focused methodology in 2018
In 2017, the Index team once again built consensus between stakeholders on the current role for pharmaceutical companies in access to medicine. This led to a more focused methodology, with 69 indicators, compared to 83 in 2016, targeting those areas where pharmaceutical companies have the greatest potential to make change. This continues a trend that began in 2010, when the Index was based on 106 indicators (see Fig.1). Between 2016 and 2018, the average number of data-points being requested is reduced per company by 30%.

The Foundation also reviewed how it shares information with the companies in scope, making changes to enable company teams to begin preparing their data sets earlier than in previous cycles. This included sharing the questionnaire with the companies much earlier than in previous years. Similarly, in another new development, the Foundation has compiled portfolio and pipeline data to be reviewed by the companies in scope in advance of the formal data-collection process.

New: Amsterdam Sessions
Also new in 2017, the Foundation launched its first series of Amsterdam Sessions, as part of its company engagement programme and as a new way of inspiring change based on the findings from the Foundation’s most recent research. These sessions provided a forum for the people who work in pharmaceutical companies on access programmes, strategies and initiatives, or in emerging markets and low-income countries. The goal of the events was to share the detail of successful access approaches and explore how they can be effectively transferred, recognising that different situations need tailored solutions. The Amsterdam Sessions were developed for the pharmaceutical companies who participate in the Index, and included discussions with experts from the NGO and investor worlds. They were moderated by Jayasree K. Iyer, Executive Director.

“What struck me about these sessions was how lively and strategic the discussions were between the senior access managers present. We know that the people working on access programmes within the companies we measure are hungry to hear directly from their peers about what they are doing and how they are thinking. I often talk about the Index as a book of solutions. These sessions provide a fantastic opportunity to explore these solutions with the people responsible for developing them.”

Access to Medicine Foundation Amsterdam Sessions Best Practices 2017

Session I: Access to Cancer Care
The first Amsterdam Session took place in June and brought together oncology companies to share practical steps for improving access to cancer care in low- and middle-income countries. It followed the Foundation’s 2017 study mapping how pharmaceutical companies are already tackling this issue. The workshop participants included oncologists, access leaders and managers from eight of the large research-based pharmaceutical companies measured in the Access to Medicine Index – download the report.

Session II: Best Practices & Impact
The second workshop followed the theme ‘Best Practices & Impact’. It brought together investors and key experts from pharmaceutical companies to discuss innovative business models identified in the Access to Medicine Index. The workshop was hosted in London in September, at the offices of BMO Global Asset Management. During the workshop, a panel of investors exchanged insights with pharmaceutical company participants on how inclusive business models are perceived and valued. In a later session, representatives from pharmaceutical companies presented their best practices regarding access strategy frameworks, benchmarking and the SDGs, affordability and facilitating financing – download the report.

Session III: 2018 Access to Medicine Index
The third Amsterdam Session was designed as a hands-on training for the companies’ reporting teams, and focused on the new methodology and data-collection process for the 2018 Index. Participants also shared how they apply the Index report and methodology internally. For example, several people discussed how they had reviewed and rebuilt access strategies or approaches using the methodology or adapted indicators. Others mentioned that the Index findings, as well as changes in company rankings, help to stimulate and steer internal dialogue about the merits of different access approaches.

Next steps
The groundwork for a smooth and efficient data-collection process for the 2018 Access to Medicine Index has been laid. In January, the data-collection process for the 2018 Access to Medicine Index will formally begin, comprising two main rounds plus a clarification process. The 2018 Access to Medicine Index is planned for publication in late 2018. It will mark the sixth time that the Index has been published.

About the Access to Medicine Index

The Access to Medicine Index analyses 20 of the world’s largest research-based pharmaceutical companies with products for high-burden diseases in low- and middle-income countries. The Index ranks these companies according to their efforts to improve access to medicine in seven areas of corporate behaviour, including pricing, patents, ethical behaviour and donations. It covers 107 low- and middle-income countries and 50 high-burden diseases, and examines eight types of products, from medicines to vaccines to diagnostics. The Index identifies best practices, highlights where progress is being made, and uncovers where critical action is still required. In this way, the Index provides both an incentive and a guide for pharmaceutical companies to do more to improve access to medicine. It is published every two years by the Access to Medicine Foundation, an independent non-profit organisation.

About the Access to Medicine Foundation

The Access to Medicine Foundation is a non-profit organisation based in the Netherlands. It aims to advance access to medicine in low- and middle-income countries by stimulating and guiding the pharmaceutical industry to play a greater role in improving access to medicine. The Foundation is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the UK Department for International Development. For ten years, the Foundation has been building consensus on the role for the pharmaceutical industry in improving access to medicine and vaccines. It published its first benchmark of industry activity in this area in 2008, in the first Access to Medicine Index. The fifth Access to Medicine Index has been published in 2016.