Opinion: Shaping the future of health care markets — where do we go from here?

A medical supply shop owner in Nigeria. Photo by: Arne Hoel / World Bank / CC BY-NC-ND

Against a backdrop of a dramatically changing world, private sector companies have to think and act differently about public health challenges that affect the most vulnerable. Massive societal and economic changes are challenging the way in which we think about affecting global public health, and more broadly, development.

Biopharmaceutical company Pfizer has evolved its own approach to address the emerging public health challenges in this increasingly complex environment. We are leaning in to our innovative heritage by exploring catalytic ways to create lasting public health solutions for patients in need. We call this approach “entrepreneurship for good.”

For more than 160 years, Pfizer has been making important global health contributions in both developed and emerging countries. The impact of this work is both significant and far-reaching, touching the lives of millions of patients around the world. Historically, to achieve public health goals, Pfizer used traditional philanthropic approaches: large scale cash and product donations. That strategy is now evolving.

Entrepreneurship is key to advancing global social and economic development — regardless of a country’s development status. Entrepreneurship is also essential for creating new ideas, jobs, and strategies that help ensure every individual can live a dignified life. At its core, entrepreneurship means doing things differently and driving continuous improvement through innovation.

Specifically, through our corporate responsibility work, we apply our full resources — our people, medicines and vaccines, and funding — to ensure patients in need get the health care they need.

Our programs and initiatives rely on innovative thinking to help to overcome barriers to health care and increase access to our medicines and vaccines, and in turn create sustainable solutions with lasting public health impact.

Case study: Sayana® Press (medroxyprogesterone acetate) — a ‘novel collaboration’

While Pfizer’s drug donation programs are an important part of our strategy to increase access to our medicines, we also understand the importance of helping to make markets work when it comes to broadening access to our medicines and vaccines. This includes developing new and creative commercial strategies that can work more effectively in emerging markets.

Take for example our efforts to bring our injectable contraceptive, Sayana Press (medroxyprogesterone acetate), to thousands of women living in the developing world. Designed with public health in mind, Pfizer, through a novel collaboration with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, was able to help broaden access to Sayana Press for women most in need in 69 of the world’s poorest countries.

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A robust private sector is critical for generating sustainable and permanent solutions. Providing catalytic grants to social entrepreneurs and organizations provides support for ideas that, when taken to the next level, can progress the development of a market that can provide affordable health care options for those in need so that they can afford quality care.  

It’s vital to galvanize progress, to fund intriguing concepts, and to attract other funders and partners that can help take projects to scale.

With all of our corporate responsibility programs and through the Pfizer Foundation, we seek to do this by exploring creative partnerships.

In Kenya, for example, we have partnered with PharmAccess to develop a mobile health wallet, with funds specifically designated for health. The program is testing the feasibility of health savings in a new way. Showing that even in low-resource settings, many families recognize and value the importance of saving for health.

The needs have never been greater, but neither have the opportunities. In order to shape the future of health care markets, we need to think creatively about partnerships across the private and public sectors.

We need to be smart about where we focus our efforts based on our skills, resources and capabilities. But most of all, we need to be truly catalytic in making scalable and long-lasting solutions that improve access to quality health care and help build universal health access.

The Pfizer Foundation is a charitable organization established by Pfizer Inc. It is a separate legal entity from Pfizer Inc. with distinct legal restrictions.

Making Markets Work is an online conversation to explore what’s being done to make global health care markets accessible to people at the base of the pyramid. Over 10 weeks, we will amplify the discussion around effective health financing, analyze key challenges blocking universal market access in the health care supply chain, and explore the key strategies to make markets more effective. Join us as we look at this important issue, and share your thoughts by tagging #MakingMarketsWork and @Devex.

The views in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect Devex's editorial views.

About the author

  • Caroline Roan

    Caroline Roan is vice president of corporate responsibility at Pfizer and the president of the Pfizer Foundation. During her tenure, Pfizer has refined its strategy to better address today's highly complex global health challenges. The resulting portfolio is a coordinated approach to strategic philanthropy and responsible investment, which invests the full scope of the company's resources to broaden access to medicines and strengthen health care delivery for underserved people around the world.