GSK presents steps to address emerging global health security challenges

Issued: London

  • Offering to extend its lowest prices for vaccines to refugees
  • Supporting a new roadmap for tackling antibiotic resistance
  • Reaffirming commitment to biopreparedness facility to research vaccines against future public health threats

As the United Nations General Assembly takes place in New York this week, GSK will set out a series of steps to further address emerging global health challenges, including supporting immunisation for refugees; tackling the continued rise of antimicrobial resistance; and preparing for future public health threats or pandemics. These pledges build on GSK’s long-standing and comprehensive commitments to delivering innovative medicines and vaccines and widening access to them; and will support the ambitious Global Goals to improve health, prosperity and sustainable development by 2030.

Extending lowest prices for vaccines to refugees

The current refugee crisis affecting areas such as Syria and South Sudan can leave displaced people unable to access healthcare, and potentially vulnerable to vaccine-preventable disease. In response, GSK is making a new commitment to supply its essential vaccines to internationally recognised civil society organisations (CSOs) – such as Médecins Sans Frontières – at its lowest prices for use in acute humanitarian situations in circumstances where governments are unable to respond.  

This will initially apply to GSK’s pneumococcal vaccine to help protect children against diseases such as pneumonia. Working with partners such as Gavi, GSK is proposing to provide Synflorix at the deeply discounted price of $3.05 per dose to charities who fund and deliver immunisation programmes to refugees and displaced people. GSK will explore expanding this offer to other essential vaccines in the future.

For many years GSK has been working with partners to increase access to its vaccines so as many people round the world as possible can benefit from immunisation. This includes supply arrangements with certain charities and product donations in emergencies.

This new pledge is designed to help maintain stable vaccination programmes in acute humanitarian situations where governments are unable to do so, by developing a reliable and predictable supply to CSOs who have stepped in. At the same time, GSK will continue to work with partners to strengthen the long-term capacity of local health systems to support refugees and host communities.

Sir Andrew Witty, GSK CEO, will be in New York this week for a series of events, including the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting. He said: “The UN General Assembly is an important moment to reflect and act upon some of the very serious health challenges we currently face, which risk undoing the excellent progress that has been made on improving health around the world.

“From reaching refugees with essential vaccines, to staving off the increasing threat of antibiotic resistance, we cannot tackle these challenges alone – it needs business, governments and civil society to work together.

“I am pleased that we can today offer our pneumococcal vaccine at the lowest price to civil society organisations providing essential immunisation programmes to refugees. While government-led programmes offer the best chance of providing sustainable immunisation, we know that this is not always possible – particularly in a time of crisis. Through this new pledge, we hope to provide consistency and stability for those delivering healthcare to some of our most vulnerable communities.”

Tackling antimicrobial resistance

GSK will also highlight its continued commitment to tackling antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and the need for a sustained, multi-stakeholder response to this global health threat. Speaking at a high-level meeting on AMR on 21 September, Sir Andrew will stress the importance of tackling this threat in order to help protect future generations and praise the continued high level political focus.

Building on the Industry Declaration on Combating AMR, launched at Davos in January 2016, which called for collective action to create a sustainable and predictable market for antibiotics, GSK will alongside others add its signature to an industry “Roadmap”. This will lay out a series of specific commitments for reducing the development of antimicrobial resistance, investing in R&D and improving access to antibiotics.

GSK has a legacy in antibiotics going back 70 years and, in spite of the scientific and economic obstacles, is committed to advancing research in this field. This week, GSK announces that the most advanced asset in its antibiotic pipeline – gepotidacin (GSK2140944) – which has a novel mechanism of action, has been granted Qualified Infectious Disease Product status by the Food and Drug Administration, which would expedite review of the drug application.

This asset, which is being developed in collaboration with the US government’s Biomedical Advanced Research Development Authority, is now moving towards phase III studies, following positive phase II results.

Preparing for future pandemics

As a global leader in vaccines, GSK will this week add its voice to calls for improved global preparedness to respond to global health emergencies. At the Social Good Summit, hosted by the UN Foundation and Mashable in New York on 19 September, Moncef Slaoui, Chairman of Vaccines, GSK, will reiterate the company’s support for a more concerted and co-ordinated programme to enhance preparedness against potential future outbreaks.

In the wake of recent global health threats such as Ebola and Zika, there is growing consensus across governments and multinational organisations of the need to better anticipate and prepare for global health threats to avoid devastating consequences for health, economies and global security. GSK is proposing to create a Biopreparedness Organisation (BPO) – a dedicated, permanent organisation operating on a no-profit, no-loss basis and focused on designing and developing new vaccines against potential public health threats. The pathogens to be targeted would be selected and prioritised with guidance from independent public health experts.

The BPO would be based at GSK’s facility in Rockville in the US. Such a facility requires a collective approach with backing from governments and other organisations. GSK is actively engaging with governments, funders and non-governmental organisations to secure funding to enable the BPO to advance without delay.

Notes to editors

Providing pneumococcal immunisation for refugees & displaced peoples

  • The number of refugees and displaced people worldwide has hit a record high. Governments have a responsibility to care for these populations; however, sometimes their ability to do so is compromised.
  • Where acute humanitarian crises impact a government’s ability to provide a sustainable and stable immunisation programme, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) are sometimes required to provide support or step in.
  • GSK has been working to develop a coherent and sustainable way to help CSOs that are funding and implementing immunisation programmes for refugees and internally displaced populations (IDPs) where the government is unable to do so.
  • GSK is offering its pneumococcal vaccine at the lowest price of $3.05 to CSO immunisation programmes for refugees and IDPs. The hope is to expand this commitment to other essential vaccines in the future.
  • With this offer, internationally recognised CSOs who fund and deliver immunisation programmes for refugees and internally displaced populations will be able to purchase the pneumococcal vaccine at $3.05.
  • This offer is made on the basis that others would not seek to reference this special price that is intended to support refugee populations.
  • GSK will work with its partners to develop a pragmatic process to ensure timely, reliable and predictable supply of pneumococcal vaccines – this will likely involve different organisations helping to manage requests for supplies from CSO.

GSK’s support for refugee communities:

  • Since 2012, GSK has been working with humanitarian organisations to help refugee communities in affected countries. GSK continues to support partners’ efforts to help refugees at each stage of their journey. This focuses on helping to protect refugees’ health and wellbeing through healthcare provision and child protection. Through partners, GSK is addressing immediate needs – such as access to shelter and food – as well as strengthening the long-term capacity of local infrastructures to support refugees and host communities.
  • As of May 2016, the company had contributed more than £2 million to the refugee response. This includes donations of essential medicines, which have been distributed to health centres in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon via AmeriCares and Direct Relief.     
  • With Save the Children, GSK is supporting a wide range of healthcare interventions, including child-friendly centres in Italy, Croatia and Serbia. The partnership has also supported Save the Children’s Syria appeal, helping children in and around Syria to receive the right support.  Responding to humanitarian emergencies is an important element of GSK’s five-year partnership with Save the Children, through which the organisations are combining their resources and expertise to help save one million children’s lives.
  • In Jordan, GSK is partnering with the Red Cross to address health needs of refugees and host communities, reaching 15,000 people.  Through community-based health and first aid activities, this programme will aim to improve wellbeing and promote resilience among vulnerable communities. With the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), GSK is exploring how to support people in transit and strengthen healthcare provision in camp settings.

GSK’s approach to innovation and access

  • Over the past decade, GSK has made significant changes to its business model to support increased access to medicines. It has pioneered tiered pricing models, prioritised investment in R&D for diseases of the developing world and formed partnerships to help improve health for people in poorer countries. GSK has adopted a flexible approach with intellectual property, pooling its patents and know-how to encourage more research into neglected diseases and agreeing voluntary licenses to enable generic manufacturers to make HIV medicines for the countries most affected by HIV.
  • GSK has a special unit dedicated to increasing access to medicines in the world’s poorest countries. It caps the price of its patented medicines in LDCs at no more than 25% of developed world prices and reinvests 20% of any profits made in LDCs back into training community health workers in those countries. Since 2009, this has contributed to the training of 40,000 health workers. The company has also adopted a tiered pricing approach for its products, where countries pay a price based on their Gross National Income (GNI) per capita.
  • GSK had used a tiered pricing model for decades to improve access to its vaccines and enable low-income countries to roll out national immunisation programmes. It reserves its lowest prices for organisations such as Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which supports vaccination for children in the world’s poorest countries. In 2015, GSK froze prices of its vaccines for countries that graduate from Gavi support so they can continue to buy vaccines at discounted prices for a further decade.
  • In 2015, GSK’s malaria candidate vaccine, the product of 30 years of research, received a positive scientific opinion from European regulators for use in the prevention of malaria in young children in sub-Saharan Africa. This is an important step towards making the vaccine available, alongside other tools, to help protect children from malaria. If approved, GSK will provide the vaccine at a not-for-profit price.
  • In 2009, GSK opened up access to its intellectual property for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Today, seven other pharmaceutical companies are doing the same through a consortium, WIPO Re:Search. GSK has also screened its entire compound library – some 2 million compounds – and made publically available the 13,500 compounds which showed signs of activity against malaria and 200 which show signs of activity against TB to encourage research in these areas.
  • GSK recognises there is a critical shortage of new antibiotics in development and believes a sustained, united effort is needed to drive down resistance to existing antibiotics and encourage further investment in to the next generation of these medicines.
  • GSK is a strong advocate of collaboration in this field, and is involved in several partnerships with governments, scientific institutions and other companies to accelerate the development of new antibiotics. In recognition of the need for public and private sectors to work together in this field, in January 2016, the company signed up to a groundbreaking declaration of more than 80 pharmaceutical and diagnostic companies, committing to work with governments to address the issue of antimicrobial resistance.

GSK – one of the world’s leading research-based pharmaceutical and healthcare companies – is committed to improving the quality of human life by enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer.