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“Access Unplugged”: We have the opportunity – and the duty – to lead the global debate

A Sandoz
opinion piece

By Isabel Afonso
Head of Global Commercial Strategy and Sandoz Executive Committee member

Increasing access to medicines has always been central to our value proposition at Sandoz, but the recent annual conference of Medicines for Europe (formerly the European Generic Association) was the first time that I have seen the industry as a whole work towards a common understanding of what access really means.

That was particularly the case during the “CEOs Unplugged” panel session, during which I had the honor of standing in for Richard to represent the Sandoz position on key topics such as where future industry growth will come from and how players should adapt to a tighter pricing environment.

In his introductory presentation, a BCG partner stressed that the companies who succeed in years to come will be those that focus not just on increasing efficiency but on providing “value solutions” for healthcare systems as well as more “patient-centric” offerings.

Together with the contributions of my fellow panelists, this reinforced once again the responsibility we have not just to drive access to medicines on the ground, but to help lead the public debate about the best ways of addressing global healthcare challenges.

Universal access to healthcare is still arguably the single largest unmet medical need. At least 400 million people worldwide still lack access to essential health services1  and more than two billion cannot afford to buy the medicines they need2. That is despite the great medical breakthroughs of the past century and the impressive recent progress to reduce global poverty, treat more patients and broaden education.

The World Health Organization’s Sustainable Development Goals, published last year, outline a set of concrete measures to achieve universal health coverage by 2030. At Sandoz, we are committed to playing a key role in achieving these goals, by pioneering new approaches to help people around the word access high-quality medicine. We can do so in three main ways: by further developing our broad and innovative portfolio, by building on our leadership in key areas including biosimilars and generic anti-infectives, and by expanding our Access programs targeting those most in need. If we do this, we can make a major contribution to increasing global access and meeting patient needs.

Sandoz medicines reached more than 500 million patients in 2015 and our aspiration is to reach one billion within the next five years. I believe we can do this if we all remember that increasing access to medicine is not just a social aspiration but the basis of our business model. That’s true for the groundbreaking access programs we operate at Sandoz, including Novartis Access and the Novartis Malaria Initiative, but it’s equally true for every part of our business. At Sandoz, our ultimate goal is simple: to get the right medicines to the people who need them, when they need them.

As I told my colleagues at Medicines for Europe, our number one priority as an industry is to drive access by ensuring our own long-term growth and sustainability. At Sandoz, we intend to lead with both words and actions. It’s time to “unplug” access!

1Joint WHO/ World Bank new release
2The 2016 Access to Medicine Index. Methodology 2015