To help provide essential healthcare to the 80% of people worldwide who live in low and middle-income countries (LMICs), steps must be taken by global industry to develop, scale up, and supply health products.

Jayasree Iyer, CEO of the Access to Medicine Foundation (the Foundation) is helping industry leaders to take those steps. Currently working to connect the Foundation’s research insights with health organisations working to improve access to medicine, Iyer previously helped develop and manage a large portfolio of public-private partnerships between the pharmaceutical industry and its partners, totalling a budget of over €100m. 

As guest speaker during gasworld’s Medical Gases Virtual Event 2022, Iyer commented on the mobilisation of key healthcare sectors.

Pathways of influence 

To enable an industry to strengthen its impact, the Foundation works to build multi-stakeholder consensus to increase accountability. 

By creating non-financial incentives, top media coverage of the company’s findings is ensured. 

The Foundation also aims to share best practices through industry workshops, publishing reports and engaging in strategic communication.

“We also work alongside a number of different stakeholders on systemic challenges such as drug pricing. We cover issues along the supply chain,” said Iyer. 

Using a combination of data, research insights, and ranking report cards, the Foundation leverages a network of stakeholders including policymakers, governments and the public. 

Its Access to Medicine Index is the Foundation’s most prominent research guide and uses a range of research publications to create new dialogues around chronic challenges faced across the healthcare industry across the globe. 

Strategic Direction 

Between 2022 and 2026, Iyer explained that the Foundation aims to use its model of change to apply to a wider range of players such as vaccine manufacturers, generic medicine manufacturers, diagnostic companies and medical gas companies. 

“We hope to solve the most pressing healthcare inequities, there’s more of a role for more diverse groups of industry to play and step up along the continuum of care,” she said. 

Medical gases for healthcare 

“Medical oxygen is a core component of health care, it is a long-neglected component to the health system, despite it being absolutely essential for a variety of medical situations,” explained Iyer. 

In addition to treating Covid-19, medical oxygen is used during obstetric emergencies. Around 15% of pregnant women develop a complication that may require emergency intervention, including oxygen therapy. 

According to a UNICEF study, pneumonia is one of the top infectious disease killers of children under five years. 

“Oxygen is a crucial first line treatment for patients with severe Covid-19.” 

Oxygen gaps in LMICs 

According to Iyer, 50% of hospitals in LMICs have either an inconsistent supply or no access to oxygen at all. 

Key limiting issues include market concentration, the fact that medical gases represent only a small fraction of the industrial gases business, a fragmented supply chain, and lack of affordable supply. 

To help fill these gaps and mobilise the medical gases community, the Foundation has partnered with organisations such as the Every Breath Counts Coalition, in addition to inviting investors to play a role in identifying major oxygen supply issues. 

Three of the biggest medical gas companies, Air Liquide, Air Products and Linde – together covering 69% of the industrial gas market – have undertaken initiatives to support the delivery and production of oxygen across a range of countries including South Africa and India. 

Going forward 

“To sustain access to medical oxygen for the future and we need to prioritise and invest in LMICs, engage rapidly during emergencies,” explained Iyer. 

The Foundation also aims to engage in sustainable access approaches for health systems and strengthen sustainable supply chains.