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Often overlooked, CSR programs save many lives in LDCs: “Fighting a Death Sentence”



This is the story of “Fighting a Death Sentence” .
It is The New York Times moving account of the current saga of bringing low-cost chemotherapy drugs to “ten of thousands of Africans who would otherwise die”.

The story is one of many corporate social responsibility/sustainable development stories — some global, some more local — that too often escape media coverage in a era of overbearing attention to depressing conflict, scandal and celebrity. A key outcome of such coverage is the participating companies message to others: “Go and do likewise”. So this is not merely “good news reporting”. It’s documentation of how some of the world’s greatest problems are being addressed by one of its most powerful institutions — business.

The “Fighting a Death Sentence” lede grafs summarize this CSR/SD strategic philanthropy story quite well:  

“NAIROBI KENYA  — In a remarkable initiative modeled after the campaign against AIDS in Africa, two major pharmaceutical companies, working with The American Cancer Society, will steeply discount the prices of cancer medications in Africa. Under a new agreement, the companies, Pfizer, based in New York, and Cipla, based in Mumbai, have promised to charge rock-bottom prices for 16 common chemotherapy drugs. The deal, initially offered to a half-dozen countries, is expected to bring life-saving treatment to tens of thousands who would otherwise die. Pfizer said its prices would be just above its own manufacturing costs. Cipla said it would sell some pills for 50 cents and some infusions for $10, a fraction of what they would cost in wealthy countries.”

Because distribution and training in the vast African countries is an enormous challenge, the program has also provided for “American oncologists to simplify complex cancer-treatment guidelines for underequipped African hospitals, and a corps of IBM programmers will adapt the guidelines into an online tool available to any oncologist with an internet connection.”

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases,  and himself a veteran of many disease control campaigns, is impressed — almost emotional — about the program: “,,, this gave me goose bumps . I  think this is a phenomenal idea and I think it has a good chance of working.”

This kind of corporate “giving back” to society is now increasingly being integrated into the business models of companies in many industries, but as illustrated by Pfizer and Cipla, perhaps especially so in the health care chain.

Example “down the line”: Henry Schein, Inc. a global distributor of medical and dental supplies, recently donated more than $600,000 in cash and health care products to relief organizations and associations working in hurricane-affected regions in the South and the Caribbean. Related Schein efforts “are about helping rebuild the health care infrastructure and helping communities that were affected”, said Jennifer Kim Field, vice president of corporate social responsibility and executive director of the Henry Schein Cares Foundation.