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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.

Dr. Daniel Vasella

“Effective drugs are available now, but solving the problem of malaria is much more than just a question of drug availability. Malaria-endemic countries are facing a lack of physicians and nurses; the lack of an efficient distribution system and other preventive steps, such as treated bednets against unnecessary infection. Governments, health ministries, international organizations and industry all have roles to play in addressing and resolving this challenge.”
Dr. Daniel Vasella, Honorary Chairman of the Board, Novartis

Novartis has a track record of improving access for poor and disadvantaged patients. In 2013, our access-to-medicine programs – valued at more than USD 2 billion – reached more than 103 million patients globally. Malaria patients represented the majority of patients reached through a Novartis access program.

Effective antimalarial treatments are available at affordable prices, but merely providing medicines is not enough to fight malaria. Only one in three patients currently treated for malaria has access to ACTs.

Availability of effective antimalarials has increased in countries with a strong public health system, but a larger pool of patients still lack access because they live either in rural areas with scant healthcare infrastructure, or in countries with weak public health systems.

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.