Kept out of reach - tackling the enduring

challenge of access to medicine

Hana Ramadan Darwazeh | Vice President, Global Corporate Social Responsibility, Hikma Pharmaceuticals

Case Study

Few would dispute the vital importance of ensuring all patients, regardless their condition or circumstance, have access to the medicine they need. Especially in today’s current pandemic. Yet, the sad reality is that access is still out of reach for many worldwide.

For some this is because of affordability, for others it is a lack of education and awareness. But for too many, it is all three.

When my father founded Hikma more than 40 years ago, it was on the belief that all people should have access to quality medicines at affordable prices. Finding ways to enable that access is an important responsibility for companies like ours and is something we have always taken seriously. We’ve always believed that when world-class medicine is put within people’s reach, it doesn’t just transform their lives, but it enriches our communities. That was true then and it’s even truer now.

As the COVID-19 pandemic puts pressure on economies, many more people will face a choice between affording basic necessities or the medicines they need to survive; a choice nobody should ever have to make.

Last year we more than doubled our in-kind medicine donations to people in need – low income groups, refugees and the uninsured. While we have always had good relationships with NGOs,  we are strengthening our partnerships with these vital organisations,  including Direct Relief and the National Children’s Cancer Society, to ensure that support continues. We are also establishing new partnerships with Save the Children and others to ensure our donations of essential medicines are sustainable into the future.

Just as important as affordability, is prevention through better awareness. While we are all understandably focused on the impact of infectious disease, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) still represent a significant and growing burden on public health, particularly in developing countries. Our work in Jordan has enabled us to support a string of Primary Care Community Clinics across the country, to help raise patient and community awareness of the risks of NCDs and best means of prevention. Better access to information pertaining to healthy lifestyle awareness is helping to reduce disease prevalence and drive down blood pressure and BMI scores across the community.

And education, too, is increasingly important to ensure communities feel empowered and informed to attain better health outcomes.

In the UK, we have a long-term partnership with the Prince’s Trust to help remove barriers to education and employment for a million young people through a combination of financial support, fundraising and mentorship. In the US, we work with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on its ReAct programme to provide learning experiences and internships for displaced people around the world, many of whom I’m proud to say we’ve since taken on as permanent employees. We also partner with MIT, among others, to support Save the Children’s TREE initiative (Transforming Refugee Education Towards Excellence): a ground-breaking programme providing educational support to refugee children, initially in Jordan. Globally, we recently partnered with, a web platform connecting 4.5 million students seeking career-advice with Hikma’s professionals to receive mentorship and prepare for their futures.

Investing in our communities this way is an essential task.. Improving living standards and educational opportunities in the communities in which we operate is a win-win situation; it helps to strengthen access to vital healthcare for those most in need and ensures we all get to live in healthier communities.

We don’t claim to have all the answers and there is plenty more work to be done. Ensuring access to medicine is a complex and ongoing challenge, made all the more complicated by a global health crisis that has pressured health systems worldwide. But it is precisely because of the severity of this challenge that all actors need to redouble their efforts- not just by making the drugs people need, but by getting them in the hands of those who need them most. This has taught us to be more creative, resilient and open to change. Recent experience has shown that we can collaborate and enact positive change at pace – these are attributes that will be in great demand in the times ahead, not just in a drive for a vaccine, but in our ongoing battle to ensure people have the medicines they need for better health.