$430bn investor coalition engages pharmaceutical firms on ‘biosimilar’ drugs

Amgen and Novartis the first to sign up to investor principles

A 19-strong investor coalition representing $430bn (€321.9bn) in assets is engaging with 25 global pharmaceutical companies over so-called ‘biosimilars’ – medical products whose active drug substance is derived from a living organism.

The group – which includes major institutional investors such as the New York Common Retirement Fund
 and the Illinois State Board of Investment (see list below) – has commended Amgen and Novartis for supporting a set of principles developed to guide corporate boards on policy and oversight of the issue.
The principles, included in the coalition’s Investor Statement on Board Oversight of Biosimilar Issues, call on boards to ensure that information provided to policymakers on patient safety is balanced, investor dollars used for political lobbying is aligned with shareholder interests, and disclosure on significant business partnerships is transparent.

Amgen and Novartis’s Sandoz are the first to recognize the principles, which are part of an initiative led by the $58.8bn UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust, which provides health care benefits for retired US car workers.

Biosimilars, which are familiar in Europe but relatively new to the US, are used to treat serious illnesses including cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis.

“As long-term investors, we are very pleased that the companies support the investor principles,” saidMeredith Miller, Chief Corporate Governance Officer at the UAW trust.

“Corporate behavior that encourages innovation, transparency, patient safety and access is the financial engine of the healthcare sector.”
William Atwood, Executive Director of the Illinois State Board of Investments, added: “As financial stewards for our beneficiaries, it is our responsibility to communicate these expectations to our company directors.”

Lauren Compere, Managing Director at Boston Common Asset Management, one of the investor signatories, added the principles were “guideposts for future company engagements” on biosimilars. Link

Investor signatories (selected):

AFLCIO Office of Investment
Boston Common Asset Management
Calvert Investments
Hermes Equity Ownership Services
Illinois State Board of Investment
Massachusetts Laborers Benefit Funds

Mercy Investment Services
New York Common Retirement Fund

Northwest Coalition for Responsible Investment

The Nathan Cummings Foundation

Trillium Asset Management
UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust