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Boost for health equity as low-income countries receive cost-price drugs

Davos 2023 ; This image shows packets of various pills, illustrating the need to reach health equity worldwide

The health equity goal is to give equal access to medicines globally Image: Photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash

Anna Tobin
Writer, Forum Agenda
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Global Health

This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting

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  • Health equity is achieved when everyone on Earth can attain their full potential for health and well-being.
  • 30% of the world’s population still cannot access essential health services.
  • A new proposal to offer patented drugs at cost price to low-income countries will go some way to achieving health equity.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health equity as "when everyone can attain their full potential for health and well-being." As 30% of the global population still cannot access essential health services, a lot of progress must be made before global health equity is reached.

Ensuring that medicines are easy to access worldwide will get us one step closer to reaching the health equity goal. And, a recent announcement by Albert Bourla, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Pfizer, will be instrumental in ensuring global access to patented drugs.

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"Pfizer will provide all our patent-protected products to all the low-income countries at cost. That covers 45 countries with 1.2 billion people living in them. We are really very excited about the impact that something like this can have on global health," explained Bourla. This medication at cost will include vaccines and the anti-viral drug PAXLOVID, which is used to treat COVID-19.

"In our case, the biggest misperception about the business model of the pharmaceutical industry is that what is good for patients and what is good for the shareholders is fundamentally at odds. In fact, the reverse is true. If you don't create tangible, real value for patients, your shareholders will only lose. But if you succeed, you, the employees, the communities that you operate in and the shareholders will all see the benefit."

Accord for closing the health equity gap

This initiative forms part of Pfizer's Accord for a Healthier World, which is on a mission to close the health equity gap. All of the company's patented medicines and vaccines available in the US and the Europe Union are offered on a not-for-profit basis to the 1.2 billion people living in 45 low-income countries, such as Rwanda, Ghana and Malawi. This will help treat dangerous infectious diseases, cancers and inflammatory and rare diseases. To ensure that these drugs reach those in need fast, the Accord is also entering into partnerships to improve diagnostic capacity, healthcare training, supply-chain management and infrastructure support in these regions, as well as looking to optimise regulatory and procurement routes.

"One of the main powers of staying true to your purposes, is that it operates like a compass for the entire company and the thousands of people working here..." says Bourla. "When you create breakthroughs that save patients' lives, you can really make an impact on the world."

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