Sanofi Joins Pfizer in nonprofit Drug Distribution

05.07.2022 - Two globally oriented drugmakers, Pfizer and Sanofi, are making moves that some may interpret as attempts to allay the pharma industry‘s reputation for being “only in it for the money” but could potentially benefit poorer countries if all goes to plan.

Unveiling what he called An Accord for a Healthier World at the delayed World Economic Forum held in in Davos, Switzerland, in late May, Pfizer’s CEO, Albert Bourla, said the company would distribute 23 of its medicines, many of them patented, to 45 low-income countries at cost.

The purpose, Bourla said, is to “reduce the health inequities that exist between many low-income countries and the rest of the world.” More recently, Pfizer pledged to donate profits from sales in Russia to to causes that provide direct support to the people of Ukraine.

This week, it was the French side’s turn to show its charitable vein. On Jul. 4, Sanofi ‘s Global Health unit announced the launch of Impact, a new brand of “standard of care” medicines aimed at nonprofit distribution to at-risk populations in underserved regions.

The portfolio items to be distributed at cost include insulin, glibenclamide and oxaliplatin, as well as other drugs, and the initiative hopes to enable the secure distribution of 30 Sanofi medicines throughout 40 lower-income countries.

The medicines considered essential by the World Health Organization cover a wide range of therapeutic areas, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, tuberculosis, malaria and cancer.

The launch of the Impact brand follows Sanofi’s last-year establishment of Global Health, an in-house nonprofit unit dedicated to increasing access to healthcare and bolstering local healthcare systems in countries with low per capita GDP.

This is “the first and only global initiative to provide access to such a broad portfolio of medicines in so many countries and across multiple therapeutic areas while funding local support programs and strengthening local inclusive businesses,” Sanofi said.

Up to now, the French pharma’s nonprofit efforts reportedly have reached 150,000 patients, and the company’s representatives are visiting potentially eligible companies to decide where to launch the first Impact volumes.   

At the height of the coronavirus pandemic, Pfizer was much criticized for primarily distributing the mRNA-based Comirnaty vaccine it produced together with German’s BioNTech primarily to wealthy nations, providing the vaccine at cost to the US market.

In a report prepared to coincide with the WEF, the international charity Oxfam said, “Pfizer has sold the most vaccines in the world but has delivered the least to low-income countries, as a proportion of total deliveries.”

The pharma major is now supplying Comirnaty as well as its Covid-19 oral antiviral treatment Paxlovid to 45 poorer countries, where it intends to reach 1.2 billion people.

Specifically, the US pharma’s distribution efforts will encompass 27 low-income countries and 18 others classified as lower-middle-income and will place emphasis on treating diseases that disproportionately impact low-income countries.

Author: Dede Williams, Freelance Journalist