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One of the hard lessons learned in the early months of the pandemic is that COVID-19 took a heavier toll on some populations than others.
It came down to access: access to treatments, to doctors and ultimately to vaccines. COVID-19 indeed illuminated the universal truth that access to medicine and healthcare is critical.
For example, Ebola, HIV and drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB) remain dangerous threats to people in developing nations, despite effective vaccines and medication. And with the climate crisis expected to increase rates of dengue and other tropical diseases, underserved populations that can’t easily obtain vaccines or therapeutics are likely to bear the brunt.
These troubling outcomes are the latest examples of why Johnson & Johnson is continuing its longstanding commitment not only to develop lifesaving treatments and preventive therapeutics—but also to ensure they reach communities, no matter how far away, and support local health systems to deploy these treatments and therapeutics responsibly and effectively. Further, the company is investing in research and development to bring innovation forward to fight public health threats on the rise.
This deep history of championing global health equity has just earned the company a top spot on the biennial Access to Medicine Index, which ranked Johnson & Johnson #2 in the world among the top 20 research-based pharmaceutical companies when it comes to making its medicines available and accessible to low- and middle-income nations.
Published by the nonprofit Access to Medicine Foundation, the 2022 Index measured and evaluated companies based on three criteria: governance and leadership, research and development and pricing and capacity building. The Index encourages pharmaceutical companies to see where they stand, then raise the bar and do more.
And going above and beyond has been at the heart of Johnson & Johnson’s mission since the company was founded.
For example, Johnson & Johnson has committed more than $500 million to the research, development and delivery of next-generation TB drugs, while expanding access to its multidrug-resistant TB medicine to 550,000 patients in more than 130 low- and middle-income countries. In South Africa, the company is collaborating to help fill gaps and ensure treatment for pediatric and adolescent DR-TB, including contact tracing and advocacy efforts with the aim of finding the people with DR-TB who go undiagnosed and therefore untreated.
To support patients in Peru who are living with schizophrenia, Johnson & Johnson has launched a patient assistance program that educates patients and caregivers about the disease, as well as helps ensure treatment adherence, leading to improved outcomes.
The 2022 Index also features three special reports that cover pandemic preparedness, efforts to improve maternal health and access to contraceptives and progress by the pharma industry toward achieving SDG30—a set of 17 sustainable development goals established by the UN that focus on improving public health worldwide by 2030.
In terms of pandemic preparedness, the increasing frequency of Ebola outbreaks over the last decade underscores that the Ebola threat must be addressed proactively. Ebola disproportionately threatens communities along the “Ebola belt” across West and Central Africa, but it can cross international borders if it isn’t contained. In 2021, the Johnson & Johnson Ebola vaccine regimen received World Health Organization (WHO) prequalification, and marketing authorization was approved in both Ghana and Côte D’Ivoire in 2022.
And Johnson & Johnson is teaming up to bring new solutions to the table for today’s known and unknown epidemic threats by recently expanding its network of J&J Satellite Centers for Global Health Discovery. The J&J Centers are designed to advance the early-stage discovery and exploratory science needed to address diseases such as dengue and coronaviruses that disproportionately impact the world’s most vulnerable people.
In Singapore, the Satellite Center at Duke-NUS Medical School is advancing research against flaviviruses, a family of viruses that infect more than 400 million people each year, with Asia experiencing nearly three-quarters of the global burden. By collaborating locally with global resources, the company aims to accelerate new solutions for disease threats that will only grow in years to come.
But innovative medicines arriving in communities is only the first step. It takes a strong health workforce that understands its communities’ health needs to see medicines turn into care and patients into thriving community members. That’s why Johnson & Johnson Impact Ventures, a fund within the Johnson & Johnson Foundation, helped to scale up South Lake Medical Center, a specialized low-cost primary care hospital in Naivasha, Kenya. Johnson & Johnson Impact Ventures also invested in Redbird, a health tech start-up that aims to make healthcare quick and convenient by equipping pharmacies with its point-of-care diagnostic device and software solution.
Johnson & Johnson is no stranger to the influential Index, earning a #2 or #3 spot every two years for more than a decade. These consistent rankings underscore the company’s commitment to develop and equitably distribute medicines, and they reflect the company’s Credo values to keep the world healthy by putting the needs of people and communities first.