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Novartis to make 15 drugs available at $1 a month

Comes after concerns surrounding hiked drug prices and effects on public health
Novartis

Novartis has launched an access programme aimed at low-and middle-income countries that will make 15 of its medicines for chronic diseases available at a knockdown price.

The initiative covers drugs for a range of indications including cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, diabetes and cancer, all of which will be offered at a price of just $1 per treatment per month to governments and non-governmental organizations.

Novartis claims the portfolio approach used in the programme - which includes both branded and generic drugs - makes it a first for the pharma industry.  It will roll out initially in Kenya, Ethiopia and Vietnam and will eventually be available in up to 30 countries.

Among the drugs to be made available under the scheme are high blood pressure medicine valsartan, tamoxifen for breast cancer and vildagliptin for diabetes.

Novartis announced the access programme as the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit gets underway today in New York. At the meeting, The UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) issued a call on governments and the pharma industry to ensure that medicines are accessible for all.

The agency said dramatic increases in the prices of some medicines are raising concerns about their continued availability to patients as well as about the wider effects on public health.

UNAIDS welcomed the progress made in the last 15 years in the treatment of HIV made possible by generic competition in the pharma industry "fostered by the use of intellectual property flexibilities". This has allowed the number of people accessing life-saving antiretroviral drugs to rise from 70,000 to 15m over the same period.

Novartis wants to help achieve the same sort of advance in non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and says it is actively seeking partnerships with governments, NGOs and other public-sector healthcare groups to boost healthcare systems.

"We are working with governments and NGOs to address some fundamental issues, such as lack of healthcare infrastructure, shortages of trained professionals and weak distribution channels," it said in a statement.

"These partnerships are crucial to ensure patients are properly diagnosed and treated."

Around 28m people die from chronic diseases in low- and middle-income countries each year, representing 75% of such deaths globally, said the company.

An estimated 80% of the global disease burden will be due to NCDs by 2020, claiming 52m deaths per year and causing an annual economic loss of $500bn.

Novartis was ranked fourth in the 2014 Access to Medicines Index funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK and Dutch governments, behind GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Novo Nordisk and Johnson & Johnson (J&J).

Article by
Phil Taylor

25th September 2015

From: Marketing, Healthcare

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