Access to healthcare

Providing access to healthcare for all those who need it is a significant and complex global challenge.

At AstraZeneca, we research, create, manufacture and market medicines and treatments for the whole world. We believe everyone should have access to these medicines, regardless of where they live or their income. We work hard to improve access to medicines for all, particularly those who have traditionally been underserved by the industry.

Improving access to healthcare underpins everything we do. We are broadening access to our products by making medicines more affordable and greatly increasing access, particularly in low-income countries, through our patient access programmes. We believe that we can make the greatest contribution when our approach is commercially sustainable and through provision of lasting health benefits. Success requires a combined global effort, which is why many of our activities are underpinned by collaboration with a wide range of partners.

Highest climber

from 15th in 2014 to 7th in 2016 in the Access to Medicine Foundation global index

$10 million

five-year global public-private partnership with the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)

'Best practice'

identified in the Access to Medicine Index for our intellectual property strategy


What we're doing

Developing health systems

We focus on strengthening healthcare capabilities, particularly in developing economies where the price of a medicine may not be the only barrier to healthcare. Working with partners on the ground, we are able to provide education, health screening, training and support to help local communities develop sustainable health systems.

As well as helping to increase the extent of the work we do, these partnership projects help us to break down barriers to healthcare, particularly those around infrastructure and religious or cultural issues. We work with local partners to gain insight into the local community and how we can work most effectively while remaining culturally sensitive.

Delivering sustainable benefits

Wherever possible, we integrate a wide range of localised support services for patients, ranging from disease education, health awareness and preventive measures to discounted or free healthcare services, dietary advice and nurse counselling. We also partner directly with non-governmental organisations and governments to improve the underlying healthcare infrastructure and improve access to medical treatment.

Our medicines play an important role in treating unmet medical need and, in doing so, they also bring economic as well as therapeutic benefits. Effective treatments can help lower healthcare costs by reducing the need for more expensive care, such as hospital stays or surgery, or through preventing patients from developing more serious or debilitating diseases. They also contribute to increased productivity by reducing or preventing the incidence of diseases that keep people away from work.

The number of patient access programmes in emerging markets has more than doubled since 2013, reaching 4.49 million patients in total by the end of 2016.

Improving affordability

Our efforts to improve affordability are particularly focused on patient ability to pay based on disposable household income and healthcare budgets in a particular country. Our ability to pay evaluation framework helps us identify affordable price points for those who pay for their own healthcare, by assessing household budgets and the economic impact of medicines on a country-by-country basis, using World Health Organisation and other economic data sources.

Intellectual property

It takes approximately 10 to 15 years to develop a new medicine, and for every one medicine that reaches patients, there are thousands of drug candidates that fail. The ability to obtain patent protection is one of the main incentives for innovation and provides a sustainable framework for the innovative, pharmaceutical research and development that produces life-saving medicines.  

In line with our intellectual property strategy, we don’t file patent applications in a number of low-income and developing countries. We have prioritised the countries where we seek patent protection for our products and accept that we cannot file patent applications in every country of the world. 

Healthy Heart Africa

Launched in 2014, Healthy Heart Africa is our leading access to medicines programme. Through it, we are helping to tackle a silent killer in parts of the world where access to healthcare is at its lowest. Our goal is to treat 10 million people with hypertension in Africa over the next 10 years. In its first year, Healthy Heart Africa screened over one million patients.



Young Health Programme

Our Young Health Programme teaches young people how to avoid non-communicable health problems associated with things such as smoking, drinking, lack of exercise and drug taking. Through the Young Health Programme, we arm young people with the skills and information they need to be able to lead healthier lives and educate others.


Early access to AstraZeneca investigational medicinal products

We recognise that there are circumstances where patients with serious or life-threatening diseases have exhausted all available therapeutic options and may not be eligible to enrol in one of our clinical trials. In such circumstances individual patients may be eligible for early access to an AstraZeneca investigational medicinal product.