By Omar Mulhi
Country Manager for GlaxoSmithKline- Yemen
The drive to ensure access to medicine across Yemen is a vital priority in which private sector companies, governments, NGOs, international agencies and academic institutions all have a vital role to play. True, pharmaceutical companies have not always been seen as altruistic leaders in this field, but in recent years our industry has been playing an increasingly progressive part. Today, we are seen as part of the solution.
Last week, the annual Access to Medicine Index was published. This ranking, published by the Access to Medicine Foundation, an independent, not-for-profit organisation, rates pharmaceutical companies according to their efforts to bring essential medicines to people in low-income countries.
I am pleased that, for the third consecutive time, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is ranked highest. This ranking is a public recognition that validates our objective: to improve people’s health and well-being, regardless of where they live in the world or their ability to pay. In developing countries, we give equal focus to building a sustainable business and on working with partners to improve healthcare in that country.
Previously the healthcare industry reached only the more affluent end of the population, but thanks to economic growth and partnerships in these countries, it has led to improvements in the healthcare infrastructure, training and supply, which means we are now able to expand our reach. Further investments and partnerships are required to ensure life-saving medicines reach societies in need, but it is entirely possible for private companies with a social conscience to achieve commercial success and meet the healthcare needs of the people.
GSK’s number-one ranking in the Index further acknowledges our four -part strategic approach in low-income countries, that is:
1) Having a unique business model, that incentivises managers on volume targets to drive access rather than just profit;
2) That caps the price of our patented medicines at no more than 25 per cent of the price in the UK;
3) That re-invests 20 per cent of all profits back into improving Yemen’s healthcare infrastructure; and
4) Is done so in partnership with governments, NGOs and the private sector.
GSK’s business model focuses on selling a higher volume of medicines at lower prices. This allows us to reach more people, and save more lives. This is not easy work, but it is critically important to building a stronger, healthier future for everyone in Yemen.
We are committed to re-investing 20 per cent of profits generated in the world’s least developed countries back into community programmes. These projects are designed to strengthen the local healthcare infrastructure, and provide training for community health workers. Today, we have begun projects in all least developed countries where we make a profit, including Yemen.
GSK is taking a different approach to meeting the challenges in these countries, working in partnership with others and aligning the healthcare needs of people in developing countries with the commercial success that will ensure sustained investment. Our partnerships are central to the success of these endeavours – a sign of the new paradigm for our industry. With the right commitment and support from governments and NGOs and the involvement of the private sector, the potential impact is staggering – to make quality medicines and vaccines available to everyone and not just the privileged few. This will achieve quantum gains in Yemen’s health and development to provide a better, healthier and brighter future for people, communities and societies. That, surely, is a goal worth pursuing.
About the author
Omar Mulhi worked with GSK between 1995 and 2010. He started his career as a medical representative and was promoted to a number of progressively senior positions in the organisation with the last role being Second Line Sales Manager in 2010. Omar took the role of GSK country manager effective from June 2012 looking after both institutional and private business in Yemen.