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European drug companies are doing more than their US counterparts to ensure medicines reach low-income countries, according to a new ranking.

The Access to Medicine Index, produced by the non-profit Access to Medicine Foundation in the Netherlands, ranked 20 major pharmaceutical companies based on eight criteria. These included policies on increasing access, patents, research into neglected diseases, fair pricing systems and donations.

UK-based GlaxoSmithKline came top of the index, with Novo Nordisk of Denmark in second. Merck, in third place, was the only US company in the top seven, with the world's largest pharmaceutical company, Pfizer, ranking seventeenth behind two Indian generics firms.

Wim Leereveld, head of the Foundation, said Europe's history and closer proximity to Africa might be one of the reasons behind Europe's increased activity in the area.

The Access to Medicine Foundation is funded by a variety of organisations including the UK Department for International Development.

Link to full article in Reuters

Link to Access to Medicines Index