Serious diseases do not discriminate; they affect people from all walks of life and in all economic circumstances. For that reason, Genzyme recognizes that our responsibility to the patient community does not end with simply developing effective therapies. We are also committed to helping those therapies reach patients, regardless of their ability to pay, by sponsoring a variety of free drug programs.
In developing countries, government and private health coverage may be nonexistent, or barely able to address basic medical care. For patients who require specialized treatment, care can be financially and logistically beyond their means. Genzyme has long provided several of our therapies for free to people in these situations, often by partnering with humanitarian organizations.
We began in 1999 by establishing the Gaucher Initiative, a humanitarian partnership with Project HOPE to provide our first approved product Cerezyme® (imiglucerase for injection) to Gaucher disease patients in developing countries. Over time, as we developed new therapies for other diseases, we evolved similar programs to distribute those treatments. We rely on our organizational partners – including Project HOPE, the National Cancer Coalition, Partners in Health, and others – for their local expertise and relationships, which help us identify patients and navigate the challenges of reaching them.
Success Story: The Gaucher Initiative
The Gaucher Initiative is a collaborative effort between Genzyme and Project HOPE, a humanitarian organization dedicated to improving health care around the world. Formed in 1999, this alliance was the first of its kind between a non-profit and a biotechnology company. Genzyme donates Cerezyme to Project HOPE, which distributes the product to patients through its international infrastructure. The program is guided by an expert medical committee that remains closely involved in participating patients' care and progress.
More than 270 patients in 17 countries have benefited from the Gaucher Initiative, and our collaboration with Project Hope has become a model for partnerships with other organizations. For example, one of our more recent partners is the National Cancer Coalition (NCC), a non-profit that has expanded beyond its original focus on cancer to help us reach Gaucher patients in Latin America. The NCC's strong regional presence and local relationships help us import medicine into some countries in the region, deliver it to patients, and monitor their ongoing progress and needs.
Even in countries with established health systems, patients can still face delayed or limited coverage, reimbursement difficulties, or other circumstances that prevent their access to treatment. For such cases, Genzyme has established several programs to provide our therapies free of charge, while also working with governments and other local entities to help identify sustainable, long-term financial resources for treatment.
- Our first Charitable Access Program was started in 1991 to provide patients in the United States with free Cerezyme; the program now distributes all of Genzyme's enzyme replacement therapies.
- In 2003 we expanded beyond the U.S. by establishing the International Charitable Access Program. Over the years, other targeted charitable access programs have focused on specific regions, such as Eastern Europe, India, and China.
We're particularly proud of the entrepreneurial spirit and personal commitment of our employees, which drive them to pursue creative solutions for the patients they serve.
Genzyme is also committed to providing free treatment in emergency situations that create urgent need. For example, after Hurricane Katrina devastated the U.S. Gulf Coast in 2005, we donated approximately 2,500 units of Renagel®, a product now owned and distributed by our parent company Sanofi, so renal patients in affected areas could maintain their treatment regimes. We've also provided free treatment for patients who developed thyroid cancer as a result of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Our relationships with local organizations and health care providers as well as our existing charitable infrastructure allow us to respond efficiently as these kinds of serious needs arise.
Genzyme's free drug programs all draw their inspiration from the same source: improving access to important medical care for patients who need this assistance all over the world.