Read about our response to COVID-19

Access to Health Overview

Millions of people are living longer, more productive lives than ever before thanks, in part, to better health care and access to innovative medicines and vaccines. However, more progress is needed to ensure greater access to health around the world.



As a global biopharmaceutical company, our role, first and foremost, is to discover, develop and provide innovative products and services that save and improve lives.

In addition to this core mission, we have the ability and the responsibility to improve access to medicines, vaccines and quality health care, thereby reaching more patients in need and reducing the burden of disease around the world. In response, we refer to our company-wide Access to Health Guiding Principles to inform our approach across markets and therapeutic areas. We are committed to reviewing these principles to ensure we continue to adequately fulfill our commitment to access by focusing on the most critical issues.

Recognizing the significant access barriers that exist within sub-Saharan African countries, we additionally are committed to a specific set of principles to guide our strategy in the region. Our access strategy is responsive to internationally recognized standards and priorities.

Access to Health Guiding Principles

Barriers to access and quality of care exist in many parts of the world, including weak health infrastructure, a lack of trained health care professionals, limited access to information and political uncertainty. We recognize that we have a role to play—in partnership with other key stakeholders—in helping to ensure our products are accessible and affordable to those in need. Additionally, our industry is being called on to provide greater transparency on the impact of access strategies and initiatives.

Therefore, we developed a Statement of Principles to guide our worldwide approach to access to health and to transparently report on the impact of our strategy against these principles. The principles were most recently updated in 2014. Measuring how we’re doing is a challenging but important component of our access strategy, as it enables us to demonstrate and report on our progress in implementing our Access Principles and to measure the effectiveness of our efforts.

Recognizing the need to continuously update our strategy and associated principles, we will be conducting a strategic reevaluation of these principles and corresponding key performance indicators (KPIs) in late 2019/early 2020. Our objective is to ensure that we are continuing to fulfill our commitment to access as a core company value by focusing on the most critical issues, and that we are measuring and reporting on our progress and performance in a meaningful way.

Institutional Business Africa (IBA) Principles

Recognizing the significant health needs and barriers to access in Africa, we have a group dedicated to ensuring access to medicines in the region, called the Institutional Business Africa (IBA) unit. IBA consists of a dedicated team of public health and medical specialists based across sub-Saharan Africa that fosters strategic collaborations and provides policy and technical guidance to countries focused on the areas of family planning and vaccines to achieve sustainable benefits for people and communities in Africa.

IBA is guided by four important principles, represented by the abbreviation PASS:

P: Public health outcomes, guided by leading global alliances focused on reproductive health (RHSC, FP2020) and immunizations (GAVI), aligned with country public health goals
A: Affordability, focusing on economic levels and optimization of available funding
S: Sustainability for countries, ensuring that a long-term perspective is in place for country programs using our products
S: Sustainability for our business, ensuring that we can maintain our commitment to long-term partnerships that leverage our innovative products and services

Our IBA approach continues to help expand patient access. For example, we supported Ethiopia and Senegal to launch and scale up their National Immunization Programs in 2018 with a follow-up investment in advocacy, mobilization and training health care workers. In 2019 we plan to assist the launch and scaling up of national programs in Malawi, Zambia, Kenya and Cameroon.

Integrating social and business value

To further embed access strategies in our business, in 2017 we launched the Shared Value Toolkit, an internal resource to enhance our focus on using business solutions to address social issues of importance to customers and stakeholders.

Using lenses such as our CR materiality matrix and the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the Shared Value Toolkit complements existing planning and strategy tools as a way to encourage the exploration and deployment of business solutions that can address health-related social concerns and other development challenges. In 2018, we continued to deploy the Toolkit throughout the company to enable the creation of integrated business and social impact.

Promoting global public health

Beyond addressing access to health care and products, we recognize that improving population health is an overarching goal for many health care stakeholders: countries, payers and providers who are seeking better prevention, population health management and community interventions to protect and promote health.

Because of our unique and differentiated reach, and our science and capabilities that can be leveraged in collaboration with partners, we are able to contribute to significant population health improvements. We work across different business units to develop sustainable models of population health management and high-impact initiatives to improve population outcomes at scale, with a focus on reducing disparities, building capacity and skills and measuring impact.

Aligning with global goals and standards

Over the last several decades, the development of new medical innovations coupled with greater access to medicines and vaccines has contributed significantly to reductions in death and disability from preventable diseases and to increased life expectancy around the world. However, much more progress is needed to fully address the global burden of disease and to promote equitable access to life-saving health services and products.

Our commitments and efforts that contribute to our access strategy align with international goals and standards, including the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In addition to our efforts to advance targets under SDG 3, our commitment to access includes respecting and promoting health as a universal human right, as defined by the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

While the primary responsibility for managing a health system that ensures the health of its citizens resides with government, pharmaceutical companies have a substantial role to play in working with governments to ensure the health of their citizens. As we pursue our core mission of inventing, developing and delivering medicines and vaccines, we have an ethical duty to support governments in their efforts to protect the right to health by “doing no harm.” We do this in a number of ways, including:

  • Monitoring and reporting on the safety of our products
  • Providing health care workers and consumers with important information on the benefits and side effects of our products
  • Safeguarding the health, safety and privacy of patients involved in our clinical trials

In addition, we are helping to improve access to new medicines and vaccines, address deep-rooted and multifaceted barriers to access, and, through partnerships and public policy, advocate for health care capacity strengthening in ways that are aligned with our business mission and core capabilities.