European pharmaceutical companies are doing better then their US counterparts when it comes to making their drugs available in the developing world, according to the second Access to Medicine Index.

GlaxoSmithKline (UK) top the table, followed by Merck & Co (US), Novartis (Switzerland), Gilead Sciences (US) and Sanofi-Aventis (France).

However the European lead is shrinking: six companies are in the top ten this year, compared to seven in the previous index two years ago. The other four companies in the top ten are US-based.

Gilead Sciences and Pfizer (US) moved up in the rankings while Bayer (Germany), Bristol-Myers Squibb (US), Merck KGaA (Germany) and Novo Nordisk (Denmark) dropped places.

Index founder Wim Leereveld said that companies have shown far greater willingness to open up since the inaugural index.

“The index unveils great improvements, especially in the areas of research, development and equitable pricing. At the same time, it shows that the industry still has a long way to go,” he said.

The index ranks 20 of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies based on their efforts to make sure medicines are made for, and reach, developing countries.