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PGGM and USS in emerging markets drugs plea

EUROPE – Dutch healthcare and social services pension fund PGGM and the UK’s Universities Superannuation Scheme education fund are among 12 institutions calling on drugs firms to make medicines more accessible in emerging markets.

The 45.3 billion euro PGGM and the 31.2 billion euro USS both see socially responsible investing as a cornerstone of their strategy. As the Dutch fund says: “PGGM increasingly assesses investment opportunities not only in terms of the expected financial return, but also from the social and environmental perspective.” And USS has long been active in SRI.

The institutions, representing around 600 billion pounds (882 billion euros) in funds under management, argue that global drugs companies must “take proactive action, in partnership with governments, to enhance access to urgently needed medicines”.

Raj Thamotheram, senior adviser at USS says members of the group have been in informal talks with some industry players for some time. “This is not a tool for prescription but a diagnosis,” he says.

The group has formulated a “framework of good practice” which it wants company bosses to consider when they make management decisions and disclosures. The framework is intended to be an extra tool for investors and analysts to assess the long-term investment value of drugs firms.

Robert Talbut, the chief investment officer of one of the backers of the plan, asset manager ISIS, said the world is facing a public health crisis of “immense proportions” due to HIV/AIDS. "We are concerned that mismanagement of this issue could leave pharmaceutical companies exposed and, over the long-term, weaken their ability to defend their patents in global markets."

US pension funds are believed to be interested in joining the debate.

The institutions are: PGGM, USS, ISIS, Co-operative Insurance, Ethos, Henderson, Insight, Jupiter Asset Management, Legal & General, Morley Fund Management, Schroders and the Central Finance Board of the Methodist Church.

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