GSK Lowering Prices for Poor Nations

A couple of days ago I wrote about efforts by a cigarette company to show off its corporate social responsibility activities. That posting generated some healthy skepticism, in the comments section of the blog. Now, a company from another skepticism-inducing industry is showing its stuff. As reported by the New Scientist: Big Pharma shows its caring side.

BIG Pharma has a heart after all. GlaxoSmithKline will slash the cost of its medicines and patents to the world’s poor, raising hopes that its rivals will follow suit.

In a speech at Harvard Medical School on 13 February, the chairman of GSK, Andrew Witty, declared that his company would “earn its right to exist” by meeting the expectations of society, not just shareholders. He said that GSK would cut the prices of all its medicines in 50 poor countries – to no more than 25 per cent of the price in wealthy nations. The company will also provide free access to its patents relating to neglected diseases – those into which there is a lack of current research.

A summary of Witty’s speech is here: Big Pharma as a Catalyst for Change (PDF).

I think there’s every reason to suspect that much of what Witty is proposing makes a good deal of business sense for GSK, in terms of building new markets. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Sounds like a win-win idea. But whether win-win models of CSR count for much is a matter of some debate within certain circles.

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