Earlier this year, GlaxoSmithKline (NYS: GSK) and other pharmaceutical companies announced that they were joining a partnership to eliminate neglected tropical diseases, or NTDs, particularly in developing countries. The move begins to address a gaping unmet need, and it's also good for business.
In this broad field, GlaxoSmithKline stands out. The company is No. 1 on the most recent Access to Medicine Index, which ranks global pharma companies on their efforts to increase access to medicine for societies in need. This sophisticated index takes into account such elements as R&D, licensing and patenting, and capability advancement, all attributes that contribute to the performance of a company. By comparison, Novartis, J&J, Abbott, and Pfizer rank third, ninth, 10th, and 11th, respectively.
Glaxo has made a clear strategy of pursuing access to medicine and sees this development as integral to its business model.
What's in it for the companies? It's the FDA's Priority Review Voucher, or PRV, program. It awards a PRV to any sponsor of a newly approved drug or vaccine that targets an NTD.
This is powerful stuff, because not only does the voucher have the potential to speed a blockbuster drug through the approval process -- wait times can be reduced by as much as four to 12 months -- but it is also transferrable and therefore can be sold. Expert estimates value PRVs at $50 million to $500 million. Imagine having that little beauty sitting on your balance sheet!