Driving measurable and meaningful change in health care demands broad support and investment. Enter Sanofi, whose ambition is to build sustainable, cost-effective health systems that manage themselves
How does Sanofi’s corporate mission reflect a commitment to global health and equity?
Our commitment to global health and equity is a long-term effort with a legacy that spans decades. We are at a point in time where our world is changing at an unprecedented rate; the global population is expected to increase to 8.5 billion in 2030 and currently 2.5 billion people have limited access to quality health care, a staggering figure not limited to low- and middle-income countries. It is time to rethink how we approach shared global responsibility.
Given the increasing health access challenges for so many populations, we are at a turning point in our company’s history. Sanofi has revamped its social impact strategy and is approaching our core initiatives with a renewed purpose that underscores our corporate mission: we chase the miracles of science to improve people’s lives. This reflects our goal to make life better for patients, partners, communities and our own people.
Through the Global Health Unit, one of Sanofi’s three social impact pillars, we’re doubling down on our efforts to support better health and better access to quality medicines and vaccines, particularly the underserved population and vulnerable communities across all geographies, to foster economic growth.
In short, access to health care is at the core of our corporate mission: research, development, and the manufacture and supply of medicines and vaccines to people who need them.
What factors led to Sanofi’s Global Health Unit formation, to take on such tasks as making quality medicines accessible and helping ministries of health and non-governmental organisations build universal health coverage for non-communicable diseases?
According to the World Health Organization, “17 million people die from a non-communicable disease before the age of 70 and 86% of those premature deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries”.
In 2015, the United Nations adopted its 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development where it recognised health as both a precondition for and an outcome of the agenda, and non-communicable diseases were included as a sustainable development priority for all countries for the first time.
As part of the global effort to tackle the scourge of NCDs, Sanofi, which leveraged the UN SDGs as the foundation for its social commitment strategy, established a new global non-profit, the Sanofi Global Health Unit, in 2021.
Why is it so important for the private sector to help increase access to health care and how does it do that best?
As we are coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic, there are several lessons that have been learned that should be prompting us to rethink how we can expand global access to essential medicines. The pandemic showed us that we need to take a more holistic approach to public health challenges and that industry, healthcare systems, governments, NGOs and local engagement all play a role.
The private sector has a strong infrastructure, logistics experience and resources to move the needle forward and to help increase access to health care. We know that there is a growing burden of NCDs, especially in low-income countries. Considering all these factors, the GHU is designed with this three-pillar approach to make it successful by delivering the right medicine to the right person at the right time and not only doing it once but ensuring that when we do, we leave a sustainable legacy that improves the overall health of our population.
To do all this effectively, we will have an operating model that allows us to be incredibly efficient and cost effective. We’ll also be testing new technology. We are planning to have QR codes in the future so that patients can access in many languages their medical information without us having to have expensive repackaging. We also will be able to use this brand to ensure that patients know every time they buy a box of this product, they get consistent quality medicine from Sanofi.
What makes the Sanofi GHU model unique? What medicines does the Impact Brand include and what therapeutic areas do they cover? What resources is it devoting to the task, including through its Impact Brand and Impact Fund?
Our portfolio of 30 essential medicines includes first-line treatments for diabetes, hypertension, thrombosis, stroke/prevention, malaria, tuberculosis, and breast, lung and prostate cancer. We already reach patients in 22 countries. We work with global and local regulatory bodies to ensure systematic availability and with international distributors to reduce mark ups and optimise prices.
As mentioned above, our holistic three-pillar approach on providing affordable treatments, strengthening health systems through public and non-governmental organisations, and supporting inclusive businesses in the private sector in those 40 underserved countries is unique.
Our approach to sustainability is also unique with our non-profit self-sustained model, our philosophy of engagement from selling medicines at access prices and efforts at shaping healthy markets versus donations. Additionally, engaging in projects with local partners having the ownership and with a clear path to sustainability, and support from the private sector, are critical factors in building financially viable care-delivery ventures.
The Impact Fund will focus on improving access to health – with a specific focus on NCDs – in Sanofi global health countries, supporting the scale-up of a portfolio of healthcare delivery ventures through financing and technical support.
This initiative is firmly in line with the GHU strategy, creating impact in GHU focus countries through a business approach. The fund will complement current GHU work with public actors through the private-sector scale-up. In addition, the development and scale-up of new ventures will generate additional demand for GHU activities: better healthcare systems will enable GHU to sell affordable medicines in the targeted countries in areas where a poor supply chain or lack of healthcare services are currently preventing it. Sanofi is contributing through an initial commitment of €25 million to be invested over several years.
What advances has Sanofi’s GHU made thus far? How many lives have been saved or improved as a result? What challenges and tasks lie ahead?
We announced a year ago that we were going to make 30 medicines available in 40 countries and we’ve been serving some 145,000 people since.
Now we’re focused on how to do this best, with an ambition to ramp up this care to 2 million NCD patients by 2030 and doing it effectively by establishing and bolstering healthcare systems. For example, by developing our own GHU brand with dedicated cost-of-goods access prices, by supporting ministries of health and NGOs to advance universal health coverage, and by investing in local entrepreneurs’ social businesses with the Impact Fund.
How is the GHU building authentic sustainable partnerships to deliver end-to-end access programmes? Has the GHU’s unique, self-sustained model led other firms in the health sector to follow, to help with this global cause?
We understand that this issue is too large a challenge to be tackled single-handedly, so the GHU is focused on creating partnerships and empowering start-ups. The goal is to create a legacy that can assist LMICs at a strategic level.
We want to build partnerships, not just with governments but also with NGOs and communities: partnerships that will become entrenched and programmes that are sustainable, that communities can own. It’s also about partnering with organisations that are already working in communities and providing them with the support they need to access patients with chronic diseases. Local education on diagnosis and care is also extremely important.
In the face of such a multifaceted problem, trying to ensure that the GHU delivers measurable and meaningful change is a challenge. It’s critical that we change mindsets and increase patient reach. We believe we can do that by supporting local entrepreneurs and building sustainable private initiatives with equity investments through the Impact Fund. That’s why we’re working with ministries of health, local start-ups, and NGOs and faith-based organisations involved in local delivery of health care to work out where funding is coming from, which patients we are going after and how we are going to collect data that will enable us to measure outcomes. The end result is that in five years’ time, we can have health systems that manage themselves.