Jane Griffiths, group chairman responsible for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at pharmaceuticals group Janssen, speaks to Ethical Corporation’s Rob Bailes
EC: What does sustainability mean to Janssen?
JG: Our definition of sustainability is broad. It’s about doing good and protecting the physical environment but it’s also about ensuring improved human health. As a healthcare company it is inconceivable that we would be in the business of improving health and then adversely affecting, for example, the environment in which people live. So it is also important that we run our business in as clean a way as possible whilst we’re developing new drugs for neglected diseases of the developing, or developed, worlds.
What are Janssen’s sustainability priorities?
As a pharmaceutical group, one of our most important priorities is advancing human health through our access to medicines programme. We provide worming medicines to some of the world’s poorest countries and have a goal of giving over 200m doses of mebendazole, a deworming medication, per year, to children infected with intestinal worms. We have established an HIV drug access programme and, in 2012, our parent company, Johnson & Johnson, signed the London Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases. The environment is also a priority and, through Johnson & Johnson’s Earthwards process, we are promoting greener product development across the business.
What is Earthwards?
Earthwards is Johnson & Johnson’s proprietary process for developing and marketing more sustainable products through lifecycle thinking. It was developed by our environmental health and safety team alongside our manufacturing colleagues and looks at a number of environmental parameters which can be improved in the drug manufacturing process. A product must achieve a greater than 10% improvement in any three of the seven parameters in order to achieve Earthwards recognition. Parameters include materials, packaging, innovation, energy, waste and water use reduction.
How many products have Earthwards recognition?
As part of our Healthy Future 2015 goals, Janssen aims to achieve Earthwards recognition for 10 of its pharmaceutical products by 2015. Currently six of our medicines have been Earthwards recognised. At a corporate level, Johnson & Johnson has achieved a total of 36 products against a 2015 target of 60. An external verification panel of sustainability experts, including NGOs and academics, reviews our product claims.
What is Janssen’s role within the London Declaration?
The London Declaration on Tropical Diseases was a coming together of the people and organisations around the world that can make a real difference to eliminating or controlling neglected tropical diseases. Janssen’s commitment is to co-fund the further development of one of our products, flubendazole, which kills the parasites that cause elephantiasis and river blindness. We need to reformulate the product in order to enhance its bioavailability in blood and tissues. A clinical development phase will follow reformulation before the product can be provided as a treatment.
What else is Janssen doing on neglected diseases?
Multi-drug-resistant TB is increasingly a problem in certain parts of the developing world. It can also be a problem in the developed world. If drug-resistant TB took a hold in Africa or here in Europe, it would be a major problem for public health. We’ve developed a new drug, Sirturo – the first new TB drug in 40 years – that can be combined with existing TB drugs in order to treat multi-drug-resistant TB. Sirturo has been approved in the US and we will be working for that product to be used and released in sub-saharan Africa or any country that may need it.
What sort of challenges does your access to medicine programme face?
Healthcare systems need to be sustainable. It’s not just a process of donating the products. In many of these areas – HIV is a good example and so too will be multi-drug-resistant TB – there needs to be an infrastructure of healthcare provision into which these medicines can be installed. Some are quite complex. There also needs to be an infrastructure of nurses and physicians to make sure the medicines are used appropriately. When they’re not used correctly, they can actually make the epidemic worse by creating resistance. All this requires multi-stakeholder collaboration, which includes national governments and NGOs on the ground.
What is your focus over the next two years?
To make sure that the drugs we have for our access programme are getting to more patients and that they are appropriately used. Given our new TB drug will be the first in 40 years, it will require considerable education and training to make sure it is used correctly. It will mean aligning a variety of constituents, including NGOs, governments and our own access to medicines team, with in-country clinicians and patients.
Janssen: fast facts
- Part of the Johnson & Johnson group, with operations worldwide.
- 500 UK employees.
- UK head office is in Buckinghamshire.
- Janssen medicines treat more than 1.5 billion people every year.
- Now focused on developing new ranges of biotechnology drugs.