Investors address pharmaceutical market failure on eve of World TB Day
New York – Institutional investors today sounded the alarm about the economic and public health impact of tuberculosis (TB). Institutions with substantial holdings in companies exposed to Southeast Asia, Russia and central Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa are increasingly concerned about the world’s failure to bring TB under control.
Shareholder advocates connected to the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) have been addressing HIV/AIDS, TB, and Malaria with over thirty companies for five years. Lauren Compere, a social analyst with Boston Common Asset Management and the Chair of the HIV/AIDS Caucus at ICCR, said:
“One third of TB cases globally occur in Southeast Asia, where the companies in our portfolio are rapidly adding capacity and expanding supply chains. I see both a moral and financial imperative for both pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical companies to engage more strongly in efforts to stop TB.”
TB is caused by the TB bacilli, which infect up to one third of the world’s population but cause active TB in only 5-10% of those infected. People living with HIV and others with depressed immune systems are particularly at risk for developing TB, and TB is the leading cause of death among those who are HIV-positive. TB is treated with a range of antibiotics which were developed over thirty-five years ago, and no new class of TB drug has been developed in three decades. It takes six months of continuous treatment to cure TB. Failure to adhere to treatment, shortages of drugs, and lack of proper diagnostic and treatment options can create strains of TB resistant to the current first-line drugs.
Rev. Seamus Finn of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate said, “TB is highly contagious – it is spread just like the common cold. Today the world faces not only nine million new TB cases annually, but also the emergence of drug-resistant TB. Our faith teaches us all people are one family, and the examples of SARS and Avian Flu should reinforce this lesson. In today’s globalized world, we can not afford to ignore the health problems of the poor. The cost of doing so is too high, both ethically and financially. We call on pharmaceutical firms to accelerate efforts to create new TB drugs and diagnostics, and on all companies to add their voices and resources to those working to stop this disease.”
Daniel Rosan, Program Director for Public Health at ICCR, said, “ICCR members have been encouraging pharmaceutical companies to step up their contribution to the fight against TB, and we applaud those very few – such as Eli Lilly – which have done so. But other industries must also respond. The oil, gas, and timber industries are heavily exposed to Russia and Central Asia where drug-resistant TB is a major public health threat. Business process outsourcing and textile production are growing in Southeast Asia, which has one third of all global TB cases. And mining companies in sub-Saharan Africa are facing the challenge of TB and HIV co-infection. Investor concern about infectious disease and the HIV-TB-Malaria pandemics is growing. We call on corporate management to respond.”
The ICCR HIV/AIDS Caucus represents a broad cross section of institutional investors. Roman Catholic religious orders, Protestant denominations, faith-based pension funds, and major health care providers are joining mutual funds, professional money managers, and organized labor in the effort. ICCR members boast a combined $110 billion in assets under investment. Many of the organizations have staff on the ground in developing countries fighting the HIV/AIDS Pandemic.
ICCR is a thirty-five-year-old international coalition of 275 faith-based institutional investors including denominations, religious communities, pension funds, healthcare corporations, foundations and dioceses with combined portfolios worth an estimated $110 billion. ICCR members utilize religious investments and other resources to change unjust or harmful corporate policies, working for peace, economic justice and stewardship of the Earth.
ICCR members are currently engaging 31 companies on their response to the HIV/AIDS-TB-Malaria pandemics. More information is available at www.iccr.org