Novartis remains committed to providing affordable drugs
() - July 7, 2011 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Novartis Healthcare Philippines will continue to work with government, Filipino health care professionals and its private sector partners to improve Filipino patients’ access to effective, affordable medicine through innovative access and research and development initiatives.

This was the core message of top officials of the research-based health care company during a dinner meeting and handover ceremony last June 29 at the Enderun Colleges in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.

Key health care stakeholders, including physicians, public health authorities, representatives of non-governmental organizations, and members of media, attended the event, which had the theme “Partnering for Access and Innovation.”

“With our partners in government and the private sector, we are implementing various access and R&D programs to help improve the quality of health care in the country,” said Eric van Oppens, outgoing country president of Novartis Healthcare Philippines. 

Since 2001, van Oppens revealed, 350 million treatments of the Novartis anti-malaria medicine artemether+lume­fantrine have been delivered globally.

“This year, we will complete the delivery of over 400 million artemether+lume­fantrine treatments, with more than 175,000 treatments delivered to the Philippines,” he said.

Novartis has committed to supply 500,000 free TB treatments globally, half of which have already been delivered, van Oppens said.

The Swiss healthcare company developed two of the three drugs used in multi-drug therapy for leprosy. More than 14 million patients with leprosy have been cured since 1985, with five million patients benefiting from the Novartis-World Health Organization collaboration.

“Last year, we extended our collaboration with the WHO for five years, with a donation of free leprosy medicines valued at $26 million,” van Oppens said.

According to van Oppens, the Novartis Oncology Access (NOA) Program has helped provide the Novartis anti-cancer drug imatinib to over 2,000 socially disadvantaged Filipino cancer patients since the program’s inception in 2003. From 2006 to 2010 alone, benefits provided by the NOA Program to Filipino patients are valued at over P3 billion.

“We have also entered into a groundbreaking partnership with the government in order to provide low-income Filipino patients with access to an effective blood-pressure lowering medicine,” said van Oppens.

Launched in September 2009, the DOH-Valsartan Access Program is an innovative public-private partnership between the Department of Health and Novartis Healthcare Philippines, which made available the Novartis anti-hypertension product valsartan available at a lower price in government hospitals nationwide.

Novartis is one of the first pharmaceutical companies in the country to embark on a strategic partnership with the DOH to promote access to essential medicine.

After serving as country president of Novartis Healthcare Philippines for almost three years, van Oppens will take on a new assignment as country president of Novartis Korea Ltd.

During the Fort Bonifacio event, van Oppens turned over his responsibility to Thomas Weigold, who officially became the managing director and country president of Novartis Healthcare Philippines effective July 1.

“With the support of our partners, Novartis is taking innovation a step further. We do not just develop effective, targeted medicines quickly, we also ensure that these medicines get to the patients who need them,” Weigold said. 

According to Weigold, Novartis is prioritizing its research efforts based on sound science and patient need. “We are shifting to a more integrated approach, working with physicians and our customers to optimize patient outcomes.”

For instance, he continued, the Novartis Institutes for Bio Medical Research (NIBR) takes a unique approach to pharmaceutical research by closely connecting the research laboratory and the physician’s clinic.

“At the earliest stages, NIBR’s research priorities are determined by patient need and disease understanding. By looking at both the science and the patient, we believe the demand for safer, more effective medicines can be better answered,” Weigold said.

Consistent with its thrust on innovation, Novartis is investing in research on endemic diseases in the developing world traditionally neglected by the pharmaceutical industry, Weigold said.

The Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases (NITD), the first institute of its kind to focus solely on drug discovery for infectious diseases, works with local and international researchers, as well as Novartis research centers, to develop medicine to combat rapidly spreading conditions such as dengue fever, malaria and tuberculosis.

“Medicine discovered by NITD will be made available without profit to poor patients in those countries where they are most needed,” said Weigold.

According to Weigold, the not-for-profit Novartis Vaccines Institute for Global Health (NVGH) is dedicated to the research and development of vaccines against diseases that are not receiving adequate attention, especially those that are particularly devastating to developing countries.

NVGH has started developing conjugate vaccines for enteric diseases, with initial focus on diseases caused by Salmonella, which are important causes of infection and disease in children.

The institute is working the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, WHO and UNICEF to bring much needed effective and affordable vaccines to the people who need them most.

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