Case study in Nonprofit Healthcare: Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative

nonprofit healthcare accelerates drug development while lowering costs

For social goods like health care, the buyer and the end consumer are often two different parties.  In much of health care, an insurance company or a government agency is the buyer, while the individual patient is the end consumer. At least in the United States, for-profit medicine companies exploit this split. They charge large organizations much higher prices than an individual consumer could afford. At they same time, they obscure the price of urgent treatments from patients. One way to avoid this exploitation is using nonprofit healthcare models.

Global treatment of hepatitis C provides a study in contrasts between for-profit and nonprofit healthcare.

The Cost of Hepatitis C

As described in this Iflscience article, hepatitis C is a viral infection that is transmitted by blood-to-blood contact. The virus can persist in the human body indefinitely. Such persistence leads to a chronic disease marked by fatigue and the potential for liver cancer.

Worldwide, approximately 71 million people are currently infected with hepatitis C. Three-quarters of infected people live in low- to middle-income countries. In 2016, 400,000 patients died and only 2.5 percent of those infected received treatment, despite the availability of drugs to cure the disease.

The problem: the price of treatment.

Before 2014, treatment for hepatitis C required months of daily pills and weekly shots, and still wasn’t very effective. Then, oral antiviral drugs came to market that were highly effective with few side effects. The price for these drugs is $80,000 for a course of treatment, even though they are not costly to manufacture and distribute.

Let’s put that price tag in perspective. It’s more than the average annual household income (find new link) in all but the richest ten countries in the world. And remember, 75 percent of hepatitis C patients live in low- to middle-income countries.

Clearly, the for-profit makers of the current antiviral drugs are exploiting the split between the buyers and the end consumers. The result is that most patients receive no treatment.  Health systems that do provide treatment spend a disproportionate part of their budget on these drugs.

A nonprofit healthcare approach could change the incentives in hepatitis C treatments and lead to more, and more affordable, treatment.

Affordable Drugs for Neglected Diseases

The Drugs for Neglect Disease Initiative (DNDI) is a nonprofit healthcare research and development organization. They currently target seven diseases around the world, including hepatitis C. Seven founding organizations from around the world, including the World Health Organization and Doctors Without Borders, came together 15 years ago to form DNDI.

They have pioneered combining a new antiviral drug with another existing medication to treat hepatitis C. In clinical trials, their combination proved 97 percent effective in wiping out even severe cases of the disease. The best part is their ability to deliver a course of treatment in a middle-income country like Malaysia for just $300. That’s less than one half of one percent of the for-profit price. (Compare this to household income.)

A Marketing Mindset for Nonprofit Healthcare

How does a marketing mindset help DNDI succeed? Here are five ways.

  • They invest in market research to guide their mission, strategy, and tactics. For example, DNDI’s website states, with cited evidenced, that “Neglected diseases continue to cause significant morbidity and mortality in the developing world. Yet, of the 850 new therapeutic products approved between 2000 and 2011, only 4% were indicated for neglected diseases, even though these diseases account for 11% of the global disease burden.” This market shortfall leads them to focus on opportunities to alleviate neglected diseases. Check out their portfolio of projects.
  • They are savvy about business models. For example, their downloadable business plan describes various business models they employ: knowledge sharing, advocacy, advising, platform building, business incubating, and full-fledged research and development. They then match up the business model to the market need, to make the most impact for the efforts.
  • They are driven by the needs of patients. This aligns with the design principle of creating with, not for, your clients and customers.
  • Their policies focus on creating equitable distribution. In any form of marketing, distribution is a core concept and activity.
  • They develop drugs as public goods when possible.

Want to know more about DNDI’s marketing mindset and nonprofit healthcare? Download their ten years of lessons learned in treating neglected diseases.


(Image courtesy of Flickr)


Designing Healthy Communities Where Low-Income Populations Live Longer

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Using Marketing to Combat Loneliness

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Branding Public Transportation

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Using Social ROI for Market Entry Decisions

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If you’re reading this, it’s likely that you are looking for ways to increase your impact. Social return on investment, or social ROI, lets you objectively define and measure your impact. Once you can define and measure impact, use that ability to identify communities to serve. Decisions about who and where you choose to serve–what the private sector calls market entry decisions–have a huge influence on the impact that you have.

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Don’t Start Yet Another Nonprofit

start a nonprofit

“If you’re the kind of person who tends to succeed in what you start, changing what you start could be the most extraordinary thing you do.”

I previously featured this quote in a post about why society needs great marketers. If you’re a marketer interested in or working in the public and social sectors, maybe you’ve wanted to start a nonprofit of your own. As someone who has started his own business and worked at startups and nonprofits, I advise you to think long and hard before you start a nonprofit. It might not be the best way to have the impact you desire.

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If Giving Money Directly To Poor People Works Best, Then What Are Non-Profits to Do?

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People in poverty lack money. It seems obvious that the best way to end their poverty is to give them money. Increasingly, studies support this obvious approach to reducing poverty. Yet the vast majority of poverty-reduction organizations and agencies offer goods and services, not cash. What is the impact on nonprofits of giving cash to poor people?

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Free download! Data visualizations from U.S. Census Bureau

census data visualizations

[Source: U.S. Census Bureau]

The U.S. Census Bureau generates hoards of credible, useful data. Sometimes it can sometimes be difficult to locate relevant data and format it for easy presentation to your audience. To help with the distribution and promotion of their data, the Census Bureau offers free census data visualizations that you can download and add to PowerPoint slides, proposals, reports and other documents.

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The power of promotion: advertising healthy eating to kids

Advertising healthy eating, using vegetable cartoon characters

Kids don’t often eat healthy foods. They give in to the powerful temptation of snacks and sweets. The tactics major food companies use to promote their products exacerbates the problem. What if social marketers apply those same tactics for advertising healthy eating?

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