ADVOCACY: Better health care, universally

ADVOCACY: Better health care, universally

Collaboration and innovation together provide the key for unlocking Health For All – and Bayer is one organisation that is leading the charge

What is Bayer doing to respond to planetary crises and improve access to health care globally?

Guided by our vision of “Health for All, Hunger for None”, we at Bayer are making incredible leaps in advancing health and agriculture to address the major challenges facing humanity today. Historic droughts and floods, rising temperatures, and water and food scarcity put acute pressure on our global health and food systems. Low- and middle-income countries feel the brunt of this pressure the most.

Innovation and collaboration will be key to combating these challenges. We’re using innovative breakthrough technologies to create a more sustainable, resilient food system while helping farmers create better harvests with less land, water and energy. We have established ambitious and auditable targets aligned to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to keep us on track. We’re supporting, for instance, 100 million smallholder farmers in LMICs to feed themselves and others by 2030, by improving access to knowledge, products and services. 

To provide greater access to health care, we’ve stepped up our access to medicine activities with new tiered pricing models, patient affordability programmes and focused partnerships with supranational organisations, to name a few. One of our goals is to help provide 100 million women in LMICs with modern contraception by 2030 – an ambitious endeavour that can only be realised through partnerships. As planetary crises increase, girls and women will be faced with further gender inequalities and sexual and reproductive health rights issues, so we must work together to tackle this.

How can collaboration and innovation solve the world’s most pressing health challenges? 

At Bayer we believe we can best identify concrete ways to reach those left furthest behind in some of the most challenging, crisis-ridden parts of the world by partnering with local and global stakeholders. Collaboration and innovation are key to protecting our climate and to improving access to health care globally. 

We have partnered with the World Health Organization, for instance, to eradicate or control several neglected tropical diseases. In collaboration with the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative, we have a new compound in clinical development for the treatment of river blindness. And with our implementing partner GIZ/International Services we have launched the Ghana Heart Initiative, a multi-stakeholder project aiming to increase the effectiveness of cardiovascular treatment in Ghana.  

As we are a leader in women’s health, gender equality is a topic close to our hearts. We provide a broad range of contraceptives at preferential prices to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and non-governmental organisations to help provide women with more family planning options. We use revenues from such sales to fund capacity-building, such as The Challenge Initiative, hosted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Additionally, a collaborative pilot between Bayer and the German Red Cross explores how to address sexual rights and reproductive health issues in humanitarian response. 

How will technological advancements improve access to health care? 

Digital tools and data are changing how we discover and develop medicines, the kinds of therapies we offer and how they are delivered to patients. Technological advancements are making health care more patient-centric and participatory. We can see this clearly in the example of clinical trials. There has been an accelerated uptake of virtual, or decentralised, trials that use software and sensors to monitor patients in the comfort of their own homes, rather than requiring them to travel to trial centres.  

Telemedicine has a profound effect on improved access to health care. In rural communities in some developing countries, smartphone cameras are being used these days to remotely screen patients for eye conditions and other illnesses. We know that even simply sharing healthcare information and advice via SMS can help prevent or minimise the need for intervention. 

Yet, technical advancements are not enough – we need a faster transition from ideas to products and go-to-market to really make an impact. Ideally, there needs to be platforms or forums where non-profit and profit sectors can come together to help accelerate and incubate technological offerings, which could include technical and digital assets, business coaching and mentoring, and networks to accelerate growth and access to investors. At Bayer, our G4A and Bayer Foundation support us in this mission. 

How is Germany’s G7 presidency in 2022 putting health innovation and sustainable health firmly on the agenda? 

I think it is making good inroads. For example, Germany’s G7 Leaders’ Communiqué recognised the rapid rise in antimicrobial resistance, a looming crisis that has the potential to dwarf Covid-19 in terms of deaths and economic costs. The communiqué also reiterated that no efforts will be spared to continue addressing this silent pandemic. It understands that we must act now to safeguard our future from this global threat. Bayer is part of the recently launched AMR Action Fund, a groundbreaking partnership that aims to bring two to four new antibiotics to patients by 2030. With this fund, we aim to overcome key technical and funding barriers of late-stage antibiotic development. 

But more needs to be done. In the most recent Berlin Declaration – which Bayer fully supports – the innovative biopharmaceutical industry proposes to create a collaborative solution for more equitable rollout of vaccines, treatments and diagnostics for future pandemics. Industry is willing to do its part, but it calls on the G7, the G20 and all stakeholders in the global health community to play their part too. Open boundaries and no trade restrictions are requisites for success. Here, too, sustained political support is essential.