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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

BU Finds More Rigorous Evidence Needed on Pharma Access Programs

Global pharmaceutical companies have increasingly established programs to improve access to medicines in low- and middle-income countries, but efforts to evaluate the impact of such initiatives are inadequate, Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researchers say in a new report.

Writing in the journal Health Affairs, a BUSPH team reviewed the initiatives of 21 biopharmaceutical companies to assess how they evaluated and reported on the impact of their own access-to-medicines (AtM) programs. While the companies frequently claimed that their initiatives had positive impacts, the researchers found published evaluations for just 7 out of more than 100 AtM initiatives—and nearly all of them were of low or very low methodological quality.

The report identified 120 different programs, most of which used a medicine donation strategy (57 programs) or a price reduction strategy (53 programs) to increase access to medicines. That number grew from just 17 programs in 2000, as the industry responded to efforts by the United Nations and other agencies to improve access.

“It is clear that the biopharmaceutical industry has increased its commitment to improving access to medicines in low- and middle-income countries,” wrote the research team, led by Dr. Peter Rockers, assistant professor of global health at BUSPH. “However, companies should do more to generate high-quality evidence on their initiatives, and the global health community should do more to assist the developing of evidence about the initiatives.”

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