Save the Children teams up with GlaxoSmithKline.
GlaxoSmithKline will pay for the training of more healthcare workers who will dispense medicines and give vaccinations.
The international charity Save the Children is embarking on a partnership with a multinational drug company in a controversial move which the two organisations say is designed to save a million children’s lives.
A decade ago, Save the Children was among the development organisations lambasting GlaxoSmithKline, one of the world’s biggest drug companies, for its high price tags on HIV drugs for the developing world. The initiative launched by the two organisations on Thursday in Kenya will see Save the Children with a seat on the R&D board, advising on new products for the poorest countries, while GSK also pays for the training of more healthcare workers who will dispense medicines and give vaccines.
Save the Children’s chief executive Justin Forsyth, at the launch in Kenya with GSK’s chief executive Sir Andrew Witty, described it as “a ground breaking partnership” which “involves both organisations working in genuinely new ways to save the lives of a million children”.
In the past, he acknowledged, Save the Children would not readily have jumped into bed with a drug company. “Many years ago I used to campaign against GlaxoSmithKline and press them to lower Aids drugs prices, and we gave them quite a hard time, but GlaxoSmithKline has changed enormously and under Andrew’s leadership is leading not just the pharmaceutical sector but actually the private sector in terms of setting a standard for how a company moves beyond just corporate responsibility and philanthropy to how its core business can be transformative in terms of children,” he told the Guardian.
The two organisations say this is a novel concept, however, which breaks the mould of wealthy corporation salvaging its conscience by handing over money to charity. GSK will be reformulating some of its existing products to help save babies’ lives. An antiseptic used in GSK’s Corsodyl mouthwash in Europe and America called chlorhexidine will be turned into a product which can be used to clean the stump of the umbilical cord of a newborn baby, which can prevent life-threatening infection. The company will speed up the development of a child-friendly soluble powder antibiotic against pneumonia, in dose-sized packs. They will explore possibilities for an alternative product where milk and safe water are not readily available.
There will be training for new healthcare workers in the poorest communities who can vaccinate babies and give essential medicines to children and advice to families.
The initial focus for the partnership will be two countries – Kenya, where GSK has a significant market, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where it does not but has already been supporting Save the Children in training health and community workers.