By Rachel Jones


Who are the players in the world of access to medicine, what do they do, and how do they work together? Our recent Sharing Best Practice workshop brought together practitioners from all parts of the ecosystem to discuss issues and form new collaborations.

Millions of people in the world still do not have access to essential medicines that are affordable and of good quality. So who is working to change that, and how?


Facilitators and co-ordinators: That’s us – International Health Partners! We are based on a simple idea: supply and demand. Healthcare companies have products they want to donate. Healthcare professionals, charities and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) use these to give people in vulnerable and disaster-hit communities access to medicines. 

We bridge the gap and make this happen. With a network of healthcare companies across Europe, we organise, co-ordinate and move donations of medicines and health supplies. We also work closely with NGO partners to identify what they need, and supply them with donations in an effective, safe and responsible way.  These donations help to fuel humanitarian work. 


Healthcare donors: Claire Hitchcock (GSK), Mark Repath (Janssen), Johannes Waltz (Merck) and Sorcha Tuboeuf (BD) all gave their time to present the work they’re doing to increase access to medicine.

Overall, over 15 years, we’ve worked with about 100 healthcare companies in Europe, including leading pharmaceutical companies and medical supplies companies. Through partners, we secure donations of a wide range of essential medicines and medical supplies, which we process through an online platform. As a licensed and regulated distributor of medical aid, we maintain a safe and secure supply chain. We vet all partner companies, asking each to supply a copy of its wholesale license and sign a donor distribution agreement.  We review all data annually and use MHRA updates to check licensing status.


International relief and development agencies: At the workshop, we heard from representatives of several partners, including Samar Al Yassir (Anera), Marcia Roeder (International Medical Corps) and Yousaf Aftab (Humanity First). For the last 15 years, we’ve worked with a diverse range of agencies and NGOs to ensure donations of medicines and supplies reach the people who need them. We also welcomed to our workshop a number of independent consultants and charities, including Doug Fountain, Tim Beacon of Medical Aid International, and Guy Yeoman of Medipace (who has donated proceeds from the sale of his recent book to IHP – thank you!)


Logistics providers: Our external logistics partners provide the backbone to our work. Currently, we have four partners who help us sort and store donated products. They also help us prepare to move them from A to B in an efficient and responsible way. Our partners variously offer free warehousing, packing and transport. DHL has been our partner for a number of years, and we also work with Alloga, O&M Movianto and Mawdsleys.


Industry bodies: Karen Borrer, head of corporate communications for the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), addressed some hot topics during our workshop session. We also work with Medicines for Europe, the British Generics Manufacturing Association (BGMA), the Ethical Medicines Industry Group (EMIG) and the Healthcare Distributors Association (HDA). In addition, we are members of dedicated networks that enable us to obtain access to local on-the ground partners. These include Integral Alliance, Partnership for Quality Medical Donations (PQMD, which exists to raise the standard of medical donations, promote effective donation practices and inform policy makers and the public on quality donation practices), and Bond, the UK international development network.


Research: Adrian Alonso Ruiz, a researcher with the Access to Medicine Foundation, presented his insights on global health partnerships. The Access to Medicine foundation stimulates and guides pharmaceutical companies to do more for the people living in low- and middle-income countries without access to medicine.

The Access to Medicine Index, which began in 2008, ranks 20 of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies based on their efforts to address access to medicine. By recognising the best performers, the Index spurs them to compete to be the best. The foundation also produces the Antimicrobial Resistance Benchmark.