In recent years, pharmaceutical companies have come under increasing pressure to change their approach to providing cheap drugs to people in the developing world. Many have faced fierce criticism for their failure to drop prices for HIV drugs while millions died in Africa and Asia, for defending patents. However, it seems the Chief Executive of GSK, Andrew Witty has a plan to fix this problem.
As reported in the Daily Telegraph, GSK is planning to share scientific data and laboratories in a bid to wipe out tropical diseases, such as malaria. Andrew Witty, the Chief Executive of GSK who recently spent time in some of the world’s poorest continents, including Africa, said the global pharmaceutical company has a “genuine appetite to change the landscape of healthcare for the world’s poorest people”. In fact, it is estimated that Africa carries 70% of the world’s healthcare burden, but only receives 3% of healthcare resources.
In 2009, GSK announced it would create a patent pool for some of its existing products and not-for-profit-pricing on a variety of drugs for the developing world. In addition, the pharmaceutical giant plans to release 13,500 of its compounds that are believed to have the potential to be developed into new malaria treatments.
GSK will also operate an ‘Open Lab’ scheme whereby the company will open one of its laboratories in Tres Santocs, Spain, for non-GSK scientists to use to investigate treatments for other tropical diseases. The lab will accommodate 60 scientists who will benefit from £4.9m of funding from GSK to help with their research. Speaking of this innovative ‘Open Lab’ scheme, Witty stated, Speaking before leaving for New York, Mr. Witty said: “Malaria is a dreadful disease which stalks the fields and villages of many parts of the least developed world. It has been an intractable problem for decades. Enormous progress has been made through bed net programmes, for example, but a really effective treatment has been somewhat elusive. We need to enlist the help of scientists around the world and to make it as easy as possible for that brilliant scientist, wherever they are, to find that initial spark that could be the breakthrough.”