VERTONE Blog – CSR of pharmaceutical companies: commitments unknown to the general public

VERTONE Blog – CSR of pharmaceutical companies: commitments unknown to the general public


As part of a CSR approach, pharmaceutical companies are committed to a more responsible activity. Beyond medical innovation already at the heart of their profession, they develop actions in favor of the environment and society often unknown to the general public. What are the major CSR challenges facing players in the pharmaceutical sector?

Foster medical innovation and the promotion of responsible health for all

Medical innovation is one of the foundations of the profession of pharmaceutical laboratories. However, different research strategies stand out as so many strategies responsible for combating the disease. Some laboratories highlight their participation in the global effort to eliminate major diseases (eg HIV, tuberculosis, cancer, Alzheimer’s), while others focus on rare or orphan diseases (eg cystic fibrosis, fibrosis idiopathic pulmonary disease, hemophilia, etc.). As a reminder, more than 7,000 so-called “rare” diseases have been identified worldwide, each affecting less than one in 2,000 people, but together more people affected than cancer.

Another major challenge for pharmaceutical companies is to guarantee accessibility of their innovative treatments to all patients. For example, Roche initiated the PRM project (Personalized Reimbursement Models) with the objective of implementing differentiated pricing models for patients through more specific price agreements between Roche and the national health authorities. The reimbursement of drugs can be made according to the real value provided to patients, for example by indication, patient profiles, by stage of the disease, according to the combinations of treatments or the patient benefits observed.

Finally the fight against antibiotic resistance remains a major focus of research and responsibility, notably through the development of preventive medicine solutions such as vaccines, but also the study of alternatives such as phage therapy. Another avenue is to dispense the drugs to the unit to better ensure compliance with the dose and duration of treatment.

Support the health ecosystem and maintain collective intelligence

The main stake of the pharmaceutical sector on the socio-economic level is to actively collaborate with other actors and network to develop health solutions. Laboratories must open up to all players in their health ecosystem: health professionals, national authorities, community laboratories, communities, but also start-ups, digital solutions, and even competitors. Sanofi thus created in 2016 a stakeholder committee in order to “debate the major issues having an impact on the company and work on concrete action plans. The committee brings together around forty people representing various stakeholders outside Sanofi (NGOs, patient associations, official bodies, healthcare professionals, researchers, professionals from the business and finance world, unions and the media). The working groups focus on four priority themes: access to healthcare, the price of innovation, R&D and the company’s socio-economic footprint.

Pharmaceutical companies can also play a role in education and support for healthcare professionals. Note the initiative of Johnson & Johnson, which created an innovation center for healthcare professionals, the Center for Health Worker Innovation, in order to respond to the global staff shortage.

More than any other sector, the health sector requires that these initiatives and projects be carried out in an ethical and transparent manner. The compliance with laws and ethical standards is one of the major commitments of laboratories.

Of course, pharmaceutical players also communicate on their support for associations, causes or initiatives of general interest, often oriented towards the health and well-being of underprivileged populations.

Reduce their environmental impact

As in most other sectors, pharmaceutical players are committed to a strong reduction in their environmental impact, with traditional indicators: reduction of the carbon footprint, energy and water consumption, promotion of the use of renewable energies, reduction of waste production. These initiatives, although documented in the CSR reports, are ultimately little known to the general public.

In a more visible way for the end consumer, the challenge of packaging occupies a place in the debates: eco-design of packaging, recyclable packaging, or individual drug distribution. This latter solution would make it possible to limit the use of raw materials (cardboard, plastics, etc.) on the “bulk” model, and would also avoid wasting drugs purchased in standard quantities without taking into account the dosage and the duration of the treatment.

Promote responsible HR practices and working conditions

Last but not the least, pharmaceutical companies are committed as“Responsible employers” for their employees : diversity and inclusion, talent development, professional integration, gender equality, working conditions, etc.

It should be noted that the commitment of these actors to human health continues in the support of their employees confronted with the disease. For example, Cancer@Work, the first business club with the objective of including and supporting employees affected by cancer at work, includes Roche, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and AstraZeneca laboratories.

Committed to CSR issues, pharmaceutical companies communicate at a corporate level on the initiatives they are leading for medical innovation, support for the medical ecosystem, the environment and their employees. These commitments, little known to the general public, could be better promoted with B2B customers and end customers to develop the brand image and regain the confidence of the French in a sector that is sometimes criticized.

An article written by Florence Hirondel



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