Research & Development

How the companies perform

The pack is evenly divided into four groups of five companies, with clear gaps between each group and the next. Leaders generally engage in R&D to fill high-priority gaps. Conversely, laggards have smaller pipelines and do not specifically address the R&D needs of people in poor countries. The gap between the top ten and the bottom ten has widened in 2016.

The 20 companies are developing more products that address the needs of people in low- and middle-income countries than in 2014. The 2016 Index measures companies against higher expectations of behaviour in R&D, with companies largely keeping pace: average scores are approximately the same overall, as is the range of scores across the 20 companies. Within the pack, however, the top ten has pulled ahead, splitting the industry into two clear groups.

Companies’ performances in R&D are diverse, reflecting their varying abilities to work ethically and transparently toward scientific breakthroughs that meet the needs of people in low- and middle-income countries. Companies do plan ahead to ensure products are accessible following approval, especially when working in partnerships. As a next step, they can ensure such plans are developed for all relevant projects, and in as much detail and as early in the R&D process as possible.

Leaders target priority R&D gaps

Four companies have retained their top 5 positions: GSK, Merck KGaA, Johnson & Johnson and Novartis. Sanofi edges past Novartis into 4th position. These five companies all commit to R&D with a public health rationale, for example, by linking R&D priorities to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. They all lead in product development, with relatively large pipelines that demonstrably address the needs of people in low- and middle-income countries (i.e., by targeting high-burden diseases and taking specific steps to make products suitable for people in a country in scope). They all signed the Declaration by the Pharmaceutical, Biotechnology and Diagnostics Industries on Combating Antimicrobial Resistance.

Beyond this, these five companies excel in different areas. GSK, Merck KGaA and Sanofi target high-priority product gaps with over half of their pipeline projects (the gaps, as identified by G-FINDER, show where there is a clear product need, yet no commercial incentive). GSK, Johnson & Johnson, Merck KGaA and Sanofi are adapting relatively large numbers of products (e.g., paediatric formulations or improved treatment regimens) and/or technologies for use in countries in scope. Johnson & Johnson continues to lead at moving products along the pipeline. Johnson & Johnson, Merck KGaA and Novartis have the most robust policies for ensuring ethical clinical trial conduct (although GSK and Sanofi also perform well in this regard). Sanofi and Novartis are the only companies to publish some details of their R&D investments for diseases in scope.

GSK and Merck KGaA lead when it comes to working in partnership: both companies include access provisions in the terms and conditions of a large proportion of their R&D partnerships; both share intellectual property with a relatively large number of research institutions and neglected-disease drug-discovery initiatives.

The top ten set themselves apart

The leaders are followed by a pack of five: AbbVie, Takeda, Eisai, Daiichi Sankyo and AstraZeneca (in that order). These five maintain similar ranks to 2014, while improving their performances. Contrastingly, companies in the lower-middle group, ranked 11th to 15th, give more mixed performances. Two are among the biggest fallers in R&D (Merck & Co., Inc. and Novo Nordisk). Three (Bayer, Boehringer Ingelheim and Pfizer) have maintained similar levels of performances to 2014, but have been pushed up in the ranking due to changes in performances from peers. In 2016, there is a clearer divide between the top and bottom ten companies in R&D.

Biggest fallers perform poorly in product development

Two of these companies, Merck & Co., Inc. and Novo Nordisk, are among the biggest fallers in R&D in 2016, alongside Bristol-Myers Squibb. All three have small relevant pipelines, compared to their peers. Further, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Novo Nordisk report approximately half the number of relevant projects as in 2014. For all three, less than 20% of their relevant pipelines target high-priority product gaps.

Two big risers: improve in product development and trial ethics

The biggest risers are Sanofi and Daiichi Sankyo. These companies have larger pipelines of relevant products than in 2014, together accounting for 22 new projects targeting 14 diseases. Sanofi rises five positions into the top five, having improved its overall transparency and its performance in product development and clinical trial practice. Daiichi Sankyo rose three places, having moved more products through the pipeline, and providing stronger evidence of responsible clinical trial policies and practices.

Laggards do not address unmet needs

The bottom five ranks are occupied by Gilead, Astellas, Eli Lilly, Roche and Bristol-Myers Squibb (in that order). All except Roche have small relevant pipelines. All except Eli Lilly have relatively poor policies and practices to ensure clinical trials are conducted ethically: for example, they have not incorporated important principles from the Declaration of Helsinki into their clinical trial codes of conduct. Neither do they live up to expectations of openness regarding clinical trial data. When it comes to collaborative R&D, these five companies are either not engaging in R&D partnerships for diseases in scope or perform poorly at basing R&D partnerships on terms that provide for access. Looking at the pipelines captured by the Index, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Eli Lilly are not working in partnership (neither are Boehringer Ingelheim in 13th place, or Novo Nordisk, in 15th).

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