AMSTERDAM, November 14, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Pharmaceutical companies are getting more sophisticated in the way they get products to poor people and are addressing global health priorities. However, good practice is limited to a narrow range of products and countries. Opportunities to expand efforts are yet to be realised. (Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20161111/438211-INFO ) The 2016 Access to Medicine Index, published Monday, ranks the top 20 pharmaceutical companies on their efforts to improve access to medicine in low- and middle-income countries. It found that GSK, which leads the Index for the fifth time, performs best at matching its access activities with particular needs within the access-to-medicine agenda. GSK is joined at the top of the Index by a closely packed group: Johnson & Johnson, Novartis and Merck KGaA. The pharmaceutical industry is extremely diverse, which is reflected in the way each company approaches access to medicine. However, the four leading companies share some distinguishing characteristics. They have the most mature access programmes, with well-organised access strategies that support business development in emerging markets, where the need for access to medicine is high. They also show the most evidence of addressing independently identified high-priority needs. The 2016 Index has assessed the extent to which a company's access operations are needs-oriented: where actions match specific priorities identified by, for instance, countries, the global health community or the Index. In this regard, the Index reveals uneven performance. The companies have 850 products on the market for the 51 most burdensome diseases in low- and middle-income countries, and are developing another 420. This includes more than 100 products that entered the pipeline since 2014, and 151 with low commercial incentive but which are urgently needed by the poor. The majority (67%) of the research projects companies have for high-priority, low-incentive products are being conducted in partnerships, the Index finds.