The highest level of health is a fundamental right. Despite this, two billion people globally lack access to the health-related products and services they need. 

One cause of this is the cost of healthcare both to governments and patients. The WHO estimates that the total global expenditure for health per person per year is US$948, with this figure rising to US$4,380 in OECD countries.

Achieving universal health coverage is set out in the 2030 Agenda as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDG 3 aims to ensure good health and wellbeing with underlying targets including ending many of the world’s worst epidemics such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis; achieving universal health coverage; and supporting the research and development of vaccines and medicines for communicable and noncommunicable diseases.

A healthy investment

Investment in medicine is on the up. For example:

  • McKinsey research found that emerging market expenditure in pharmaceuticals overtook the largest five European economies in 2014, with a total market size of US$281 billion. By 2020, emerging markets are expected to account for US$190 billion in sales growth.
  • The Access to Medicine Foundation publishes an index every other year assessing efforts made by the largest global pharma companies to reach the two billion people still lacking access to medicine in low and middle income countries. The 2016 Index was topped by GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, and Novartis. Some 60 investors, representing US$5.5 trillion, including dozens of PRI signatories, have backed it, pledging to engage companies based on its findings.
  • An investor statement was issued calling for company boards to take action on biosimilar drugs – less costly alternatives to specialty drugs. The statement argued that patient’s access to them has been impeded as a result of strong corporate lobbying activities. The statement was sent to 25 big pharma companies, including Pfizer, Teva, and AstraZeneca, and was signed by more than 20 investors.

Signatories in action

PRI signatories have also taken action in many other areas related to health. For example, the Access to Nutrition Index, backed by 50 investors with US$4 trillion in assets under management, was launched in 2013. It assesses food and beverage companies on their nutrition-related commitments, including how they work to increase consumer access to nutritious and affordable foods, and how they can use marketing and labelling techniques to influence consumer choice.

Over 20 PRI signatories also joined an engagement on clinical trial transparency which called on companies to disclose the results of all clinical trials past, present and future. This engagement was launched in light of the fact that results from roughly half of all clinical trials ever conducted have not been published. This is highly significant for investors given that the results of Phase III trials strongly influence a company’s valuation and stock prices.

Get involved

  • For a full list of all engagements related to health on the PRI Collaboration Platform, click here.
  • Declare your votes on resolutions relating to health including drug pricing at Biogen and antibiotic overuse at McDonald’s.
  • Join the conversation at PRI in Person in Berlin with speakers looking at the impact of antibiotic use in livestock supply chains on human health.