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Health and Nutrition Last Updated: Jan 14, 2020 - 12:07:47 PM

Save the Children teams up with GlaxoSmithKline
By Save the Children teams up with GlaxoSmithKline
May 12, 2013 - 3:13:11 AM

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Save the Children teams up with GlaxoSmithKline

GlaxoSmithKline will pay for the training of more healthcare workers who will dispense medicines and give vaccinations [Ron: Of course it will! That's much cheaper than paying sales representatives to go around bribing doctors to prescribe drugs and vaccines. Note also use of the word "medicines" when what is referred to is DRUGS.].

Save the Children
Somali mothers and their babies wait in line for the babies to receive a five-in-one vaccine against several potentially fatal childhood diseases. Photograph: Ben Curtis/AP

The international charity Save the Children is embarking on a partnership with a multinational drug company in a controversial move which the two organisations say is designed to save a million children's lives.

A decade ago, Save the Children was among the development organisations lambasting GlaxoSmithKline, one of the world's biggest drug companies, for its high price tags on HIV drugs for the developing world. The initiative launched by the two organisations on Thursday in Kenya will see Save the Children with a seat on the R&D board, advising on new products for the poorest countries, while GSK also pays for the training of more healthcare workers who will dispense medicines and give vaccines.

Save the Children's chief executive Justin Forsyth, at the launch in Kenya with GSK's chief executive Sir Andrew Witty, described it as "a ground breaking partnership" which "involves both organisations working in genuinely new ways to save the lives of a million children".

In the past, he acknowledged, Save the Children would not readily have jumped into bed with a drug company. "Many years ago I used to campaign against GlaxoSmithKline and press them to lower Aids drugs prices, and we gave them quite a hard time, but GlaxoSmithKline has changed enormously and under Andrew's leadership is leading not just the pharmaceutical sector but actually the private sector in terms of setting a standard for how a company moves beyond just corporate responsibility and philanthropy to how its core business can be transformative in terms of children," he told the Guardian.

The two organisations say this is a novel concept, however, which breaks the mould of wealthy corporation salvaging its conscience by handing over money to charity. GSK will be reformulating some of its existing products to help save babies' lives. An antiseptic used in GSK's Corsodyl mouthwash in Europe and America called chlorhexidine will be turned into a product which can be used to clean the stump of the umbilical cord of a newborn baby, which can prevent life-threatening infection. The company will speed up the development of a child-friendly soluble powder antibiotic against pneumonia, in dose-sized packs. They will explore possibilities for an alternative product where milk and safe water are not readily available.

There will be training for new healthcare workers in the poorest communities who can vaccinate babies and give essential medicines to children and advice to families.

The initial focus for the partnership will be two countries – Kenya, where GSK has a significant market, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where it does not but has already been supporting Save the Children in training health and community workers.

Forsyth said: "I think the real big question we asked going into this partnership with wide open eyes was firstly how much of an impact it could have for children – and I think it's enormous – and secondly do we believe in each other's integrity and trust each other and I respect Andrew's leadership enormously."

But "we don't agree on everything", he said and Save would still be willing to press GSK to lower its prices.

Witty said it was "the next step on the journey that we've been going on over the last five years or so where we keep on incrementally – and in this case it is quite a decent step up – increasing the level of commitment we are giving to this agenda. What we're doing differently here is we're really trying to align the full business model of GSK to an on-the-ground delivery partner."

GSK had "a whole portfolio of resources – mostly human, intellectual and research resources which we think can be lined up against some of the very specific needs which exist within child health within the developing world.

"It's a way to really shorten the timeline it takes the world to go from need to figuring out how to solve it, find someone who's prepared to do it, generate an answer and eventually get it deployed. It takes way too long."

The partnership is to run for five years and is worth £15m, £1m of which will be raised by GSK employees. It is a modest investment relative to the multinational's sales of $44bn in 2011, which generated a net profit of nearly $9bn.

Witty, since taking over at GSK, has made clear his determination to help developing world populations, for instance by reinvesting locally 20% of any profits made in poor countries. But some other aid organisations still consider GSK's concessions have not gone far enough.

Rohit Malpani, director of policy and analysis at Médecins Sans Frontières' access to medicines campaign, said the success of the partnership would depend on GSK changing business practices that "have undermined access to medicines across the developing world".

There are pressing question for GSK to answer, he said. "Will they price their existing and pipeline HIV drugs affordably in all developing countries, or will developing countries be paying excessive prices? Will GSK grant MSF and other humanitarian organisations sustainable access to discounted prices already provided to GAVI so that we can vaccinate children against pneumoccocal disease?" he asked.

Mohga Kamal-Yanni, senior policy adviser at Oxfam, welcomed GSK's commitment to training more healthworkers, but questioned whether it would be sustainable. "Who is going to pay them?" she asked. "The big problem for healthworkers is the lack of salary, especially in remote areas."


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Attack of the NGOs. See:

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