GENEVA (9 December 2003) -- Half a million of the world’s poorest tuberculosis patients are to benefit from free life-saving drugs under an agreement signed today by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the pharmaceutical company, Novartis.
Novartis will donate the drugs to the Global Drug Facility, which is hosted by WHO and operated by the Stop TB Partnership. The facility has supplied procurement support and medicines to 2.8 million TB patients in 65 countries since its launch. The drugs will be provided over a five-year- period to countries scaling up TB control with support from the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
WHO Director-General Lee Jong-wook welcomed the agreement as a major contribution to TB control. “Novartis has taken a strong lead in fighting tuberculosis and we encourage other drug manufacturers to follow their example. Massive investment in patient care from the pharmaceutical industry will have an enormous impact on reducing the TB death toll," he said.
Richard Feachem, the Executive Director of the Global Fund, applauded the donation as an example of public–private partnerships that the organization seeks to encourage. “We are very pleased that Novartis will reinforce the boost the Global Fund is supplying to countries that are stepping up the fight against TB.” Daniel Vasella, Chairman and CEO, Novartis AG, said the donation was one aspect of a multi-pronged strategy to help combat the disease. “We are pleased to contribute to the cure of many of the poorest patients with tuberculosis. This initiative is part of our engagement in the fight against leprosy, malaria and dengue fever, all endemic diseases in developing countries”.
TB kills almost two million people every year. In Africa , lack of access to quality drugs is a key constraint to fighting tuberculosis and the TB/HIV co-epidemic.
The Chairman of the Stop TB Coordinating Board, Ernest Loevinsohn, welcomed the donation as an important contribution to the goals of the Global Drug Facility. "In less than three years, the Global Drug Facility has played a vital role in strengthening TB control programmes and ensuring access to life-saving drugs for patients in the poorest countries. The donation from Novartis recognizes this role and will enhance the Global Drug Facility’s capacity to fulfil its commitments in the coming years."
Under the agreement, Novartis will manufacture special patient kits containing fixed-dose combination tablets* in blister packs. The design improves patient compliance and greatly reduces the risk of developing drug-resistant TB, which is far more costly and difficult to treat.
The drugs will be supplied free of charge to programmes using DOTS, the internationally recommended strategy for TB control. More than 10 million people have been successfully treated under DOTS since 1993, when WHO declared TB to be a Global Emergency.
* The fixed-dose combination tablets used in the initial intensive two month phase contain 150 mg Rifampicin, 75 mg Isoniazid, 400 mg Pyrazinamide, 275 mg Ethambutol. The fixed-dose combination tablets for the four month continuation phase contain 150 mg Rifampicin, 75 mg Isoniazid.
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