#PhRMA12: Making a Difference Together in Emerging Markets

#PhRMA12: Making a Difference Together in Emerging Markets

04.13.12 | By Christian Clymer

Today we have a guest post from Samir Khalil, the executive director of public policy for Merck's Asia Pacific & China region. At PhRMA's Annual Meeting he participated in a panel discussion on healthcare trends in emerging markets.

Improving access to medicines and vaccines in emerging markets is both a professional and personal mission for me, and my work is informed by two perspectives.

There are the perspectives I carry as the Asia Pacific & China regional public policy lead for Merck/MSD - those of the professional who has had a long and valued career with a company that is working to improve access to healthcare in many countries.

And then there's the "private" me - the husband, father, occasional patient and healthcare consumer.

Whether it's the public me at a meeting in Mumbai or the private me at home in New Jersey, one fundamental issue occupies my mind: Are we making a difference?

The answer is as elusive as the task itself. No one company, individual or government can achieve success in these markets alone. Everyone has a role to play - a role that draws on their strengths and, ultimately, creates a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

Imagine, for example, that you are the director of a state health bureau in India worried about diseases spread by contaminated water. Does a company like Merck have to solve the sanitation issues of rural India before engaging government officials on issues that are relevant to our business?

It is not an either/or proposition. We can do both.

Last month, Merck announced a three-year partnership with the Safe Water Network to increase access to safe water and reduce the impact of water-borne disease among poor communities in the state of Andhra Pradesh in south central India.

Alone we would have very little impact. But together -- with the network, other companies, and the state government -- we are helping overcome problems associated with unsafe drinking water. We're also building our presence so that when we speak with government officials about other issues we may do so as a valued partner.

Another pivotal example is the China Merck AIDS Partnership that was launched in 2005 with China's Ministry of Health, to help address HIV/AIDS in Liangshan prefecture where the disease burden is high. This area of China has few clinics, screening centers, trained healthcare professionals knowledgeable about HIV/AIDS treatment, low public awareness of HIV transmission or prevention and limited access to basic health services.

The project has been underway for seven years now, and the government is eager for it to continue. Progress is being measured by assessing the numbers of medical professionals trained, student education programs started, patients enrolled in the public health insurance program, screening centers established and people tested, diagnosed and enrolled in treatment programs.

The project has resulted in improved health outcomes - exactly what we had hoped for.

We're taking a similar approach, on an even larger scale, with the Merck for Mothers campaign that was announced in September 2011. With a commitment of $500 million U.S. dollars over 10 years, the goal is to reduce maternal mortality. We're still in the early days, but we're already working closely with the UN, NGOs and receptive governments.

So are we making a difference?

Absolutely. There is, of course, so much more to be done, but the signs of progress are encouraging.

We're seeing them in China and India. With Merck for Mothers, we're prepared to see benefits for mothers in many countries.

In the pharmaceutical industry, for example, key emerging markets are expected to drive nearly 90 percent of our growth through 2015 with three quarters of that growth from off-patent medicines. By that year, China is expected to be the second-largest consumer of pharmaceuticals in the world, after the United States. In India, the pharmaceutical market is on track to nearly triple in size between now and 2020.

For both the professional and personal aspects of my life, helping to make a difference is critical. It is who I am. In the future of my children and their children, there is hope that with partnerships, political will, advocacy and a strong sense of trusted global collaboration, we can help to ensure that healthcare is within the reach of all.

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