Pharma corp GSK promises change
Promising price cuts down to 25% or less of US/UK levels for the world's 50 least developed countries, the new head of GSK is changing their game
Drug giant GlaxoSmithKline pledges cheap medicine for world's poor
Head of GSK shocks industry with challenge to other 'big pharma' companies
- Sarah Boseley, health editor
- guardian.co.uk, Friday 13 February 2009 21.44 GMT
The world's second biggest pharmaceutical company is to radically shift its attitude to providing cheap drugs to millions of people in the developing world.
In a major change of strategy, the new head of GlaxoSmithKline, Andrew Witty, has told the Guardian he will slash prices on all medicines in the poorest countries, give back profits to be spent on hospitals and clinics and – most ground-breaking of all – share knowledge about potential drugs that are currently protected by patents.
Witty says he believes drug companies have an obligation to help the poor get treatment. He challenges other pharmaceutical giants to follow his lead.
...speaking to the Guardian, Witty pledged ... that GSK will:
• Cut its prices for all drugs in the 50 least developed countries to no more than 25% of the levels in the UK and US – and less if possible – and make drugs more affordable in middle-income countries such as Brazil and India.
• Put any chemicals or processes over which it has intellectual property rights that are relevant to finding drugs for neglected diseases into a "patent pool", so they can be explored by other researchers.
• Reinvest 20% of any profits it makes in the least developed countries in hospitals, clinics and staff.
• Invite scientists from other companies, NGOs or governments to join the hunt for tropical disease treatments at its dedicated institute at Tres Cantos, Spain.
Campaigners gave a cautious welcome to GSK's strategy. But Oxfam and Médecins Sans Frontières both said the company should go further and include HIV drugs in the patent pool, and warned that generics companies have always been able to offer lower prices than big pharma, because of their lower production costs.
"He is breaking the mould in validating the concept of patent pools," said Rohit Malpani who runs Oxfam's access to medicines campaign. "That has been out there as an idea and no company has done anything about it. It is a big step forward. It is welcome that he is inviting other companies to take this on and have a race to the top instead of a race to the bottom."
This news comes just ten days after reports of GSK restructuring with up to 10,000 lay-offs, as posted on NP by Tina Kells.