Earth Summit 2002   Andreas Seiter

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Andreas Seiter, Novartis International AG

Talking Points / Saturday 2 February Panel

A pharmaceutical company sees its role primarily in using shareholder money for research and development (R&D) of drugs that cure diseases - and selling them for a profit.

Question: In addition to paying taxes and adding economic value to society directly and indirectly, how much of the profit has to be used to balance social inequities and who decides that? - Accountability?

Pragmatic approach: Follow a public opinion that requires increasing contribution from corporations in order to prevent reputational damage? Keeping our "license to innovate" and "licence to operate" are catch phrases, but ill defined.

Dilemma: The more a product is of life saving value, the higher the pressure to make it available at low prices this is an economic disincentive for R&D in killer diseases!

Dilemma: Tiered pricing for drugs perceived as fair only by those who do not have to pay the higher price.

Novartis is not waiting for answers to these questions, but has started to launch model initiatives, for example: "The Final Push" against Leprosy, Coartem supply at cost through WHO, Gleevec patient assistance program, CareCard for Senior Citizens in the US, Singapore institute for research into neglected diseases.

To fully exploit potential of corporate engagement, the issues above need to be addressed and fair solutions found. Other stakeholders have to fulfil their obligations too and contribute to a stable environment for business.

Giving corporations a higher degree of responsibility in solving poverty related problems raises serious governance issues - we are not elected bodies but have to follow self-interest by definition!!

 

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