Can Novartis do something for patients living with thalassemia in developing countries?

Full Text Sharing

Can Novartis do something for patients living with thalassemia in developing countries? Well this is a big question, there are so many rare diseases all over and drugs accessibility is a huge issue. To be fair I believe that multinational drug companies like NOVARTIS are doing pretty good, they seem quite committed in improving drugs accessibility…

The issue is complex but also controversial. You need to balance the need of being a profitable company with the overall issue of equality and justice.

In a recent CSR gathering held in Bangkok, we discussed about the concept of shared value, how you can ensure that a company’s profitability addresses society’s needs, doing well but doing it also good. The idea is very “sexi, how to solve the planet’ problems while making a profit out of it.

I like the concept although I am not sure how much practical it can be especially when we deal with the “drivers” to profitability.

Would a company agree to reduce, even marginally, its profits if this might imply more resources for cheaper drugs in developing countries? Big question that I am not able to answer.

As I said, we need to be fair and I feel Novartis is absolutely on the right path with the first global direct-to-patient access program tackles two rare forms of cancer, the Glivec International Patient Assistance Programs and this is done in India.

I believe that this could be a game changer initiative that is run for profit but with a strong social mission.

The Swiss company is also innovating with a special drugs accessibility program in the USA for American citizens not covered by  health insurances…

If you read Novartis’s position paper on access to healthcare, everything seems making sense:

Maybe the paper needs some revision as it was drafted in 2005 (some changes might be needed although the challenges might be the same….) and I cannot but agree with the main points raised in this position paper:

1) in developing countries governments must play an important, considerable role in ensuring access to special drugs for special diseases 2) have a set of safeguards to prevent re-exportation of medicines which are sold at much lower costs specifically for developing countries and 3) intellectual property must be enforced and we all know that this is a challenging one….

Can super giants’ drugs companies like Novartis do more? Absolutely yes and to me certain industrial sectors that are so essential to public life, like drugs, should be regulated under a different regime of capitalism order.

I strongly believe in the role of the market but I also believe that regulation is fundamental and I feel sometimes that too much importance is given to the concept of “profit making”.

Can we come up with some sorts of “ethical” protocol on making money? I bet not nor do I want to be accused of being anti capitalism, an anti globalization guy. Really I believe in globalization, I often sympathize with big companies but I always try to understand the other side and I guess that there are so many things were big companies can do much better.

Companies need profits to thrive, the resources generated needs to be shared among the investors and shareholders and importantly profits help creating new innovation through investments.

I am all for it but I am wondering if you can run a big company, an healthy business that is profitable and successful but at the same time with a new approach to profits.

So in few words:  make money, generate profits but also be able to have a far sighted thinking and maybe acknowledge that a drop of 0.3 percent of your profit or in the stock exchange in order to meet certain social demands could be acceptable by the shareholders and by the market.

At the end of the day, I believe in a fair capitalism and not in an absolute one.

Now before wrapping up, let me be clear. I am writing about Novartis because Novartis is producing drugs for thalassemia and this is linked to the campaign for Paras.


Yes I hope Novartis could do something for him and for many others. Maybe they cannot genuinely doing anything because around the world there hundreds or thousands of similar campaigns. Still a debate is needed on fair capitalism, starting from drug industry.N

Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good

Add new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.