The Contribution of the Pharmaceutical Industry to the Health Status of the developing World

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There is sufficient evidence to prove that the improved health status of a nation’s citizens results in economic growth and development via improved functionality and productivity of labor. It is also commonly accepted that healthcare expenditure significantly influences health status through, for instance, improving life expectancy at birth and reducing morbidity, death, and infant mortality rates. Within healthcare, medicines account for a considerable share of health-related expenditure in both developed and developing countries. Therefore, it seems reasonable to assume that improved access to medicines is likely to contribute not only to the well-being of families and individuals but also to the economic growth and development in all societies. It has been widely advocated that pharmaceutical multinational enterprises (MNEs) can play an important role to address this problem, as they develop and supply a significant proportion of the drugs imported by low- and middle-income countries. This chapter is dedicated to a systematic review of literature in order to identify the strategies implemented by pharmaceutical MNEs to improve access to medicines in the low- and middle-income countries. A total of 76 research articles have been identified, and we have found that the main strategies of pharmaceutical MNEs are related to improving health outcomes through R&D, establishing partnerships for product development, pricing strategies to improve access to medicines, technology transfer, licensing agreements, and nonmarket efforts to improve access to medicines, among other strategies to overcome barriers imposed by intellectual property rights. We have also found that pharmaceutical MNEs’ strategies take place within a complex system and often involve interactions with a wide range of actors, such as international organizations, governments, private not-for-profit sector, universities and research institutes, and generic manufacturers. However, there is still a need for major progress in the field of access to medicines, and pharmaceutical MNEs should be more active in this field in order to avoid potential negative consequences, such as loss of legitimacy and compulsory licensing of their patented medicines.
Original languageEnglish
EditorsXiaolan Fu, Pervez N Ghauri, Juha Väätänen
PublisherEmerald Group Publishing Limited
Number of pages27
ISBN (Electronic)9781787431638
ISBN (Print)9781787431645
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Publication series

ISSN (Print)1876-066X


Many of these projects for product development are set up under public–private partnerships (PPPs). For instance, companies, such as Merck & Co., GlaxoSmithKline, and Sanofi, are partners of the GAVI Alliance for vaccine development. Merck and Sanofi are also partners of the Programme for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH), which is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Pharmaceutical majors are also partners in the Medicines for Malaria Venture, which focuses on product development for diseases prevalent in developing countries, and in TB Drug Development, to accelerate the discovery and development of cost-effective new drugs for tuberculosis (Hotez et al., 2006; Osuji & Umahi, 2012). The Swiss-based company Roche, for instance, set up two research institutes with a nonprofit mission to conduct research on new medicines and vaccines for neglected diseases. The institutes collaborate with multilateral organizations and other public and private partners. Their model is based on licenses to third parties to further develop and distribute medicines and vaccines (Greve, 2008).

FundersFunder number
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation


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