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Eric Althoff
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Breaking down barriers to access

Access to medicines in the developing world is a complex issue. No single company can bridge the access gap. But as a responsible company, we are committed to doing our part.

Novartis has a track record of improving access for poor and disadvantaged patients. In 2015, our access-to-medicine programs – valued at more than USD 2 billion – reached 65 million patients globally. Malaria patients represented the majority of those reached through Novartis access programs1.

Effective antimalarial treatments are available, but merely providing medicines is not enough to fight malaria. The proportion of children aged under 5 years with P. falciparum malaria and who were treated with an ACT is estimated to have increased from less than 1% in 2005 to 16% in 2014 (range: 12–22%).2

Improving access to healthcare is a shared goal among companies, governments, international agencies, foundations and nongovernmental organizations.

Further, access issues cannot be discussed in isolation from the overall deficits in the allocation of adequate resources for health and the current inefficiencies and inequities.

The reasons for inadequate healthcare in developing countries include:

  • Political barriers such as weak national policies and budget allocations for healthcare
  • Financial barriers that prevent countries from improving healthcare delivery or medicine procurement
  • Physical barriers such as inadequate logistical infrastructure and transportation to reach healthcare facilities in rural areas

Capacity building in the health sector remains a priority challenge that has to be met in order to guarantee a rational use of drugs. Local health services should address local needs and be adequately staffed, equipped, managed, and financed.

Many different groups play distinctive roles in putting the various elements of the access mosaic into place. However, the overall stewardship of a country’s health system rests with the government.

  1. Novartis Pharmaceuticals AG, data on file.
  2. WHO World Malaria Report 2015, pages x-xiv: