Novartis and the Novartis Foundation
Both Novartis and the Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development (NFSD) are major partners of WHO in the fight to eliminate leprosy as a public health problem.
MDT blister packs
Two of the drugs used in multidrug therapy (MDT), clofazimine and rifampicin, originated in the research laboratories of Novartis. Although they were developed back in the 60s, they are still being used successfully today in the ongoing battle against leprosy.
In its turn, the Novartis Foundation has funded its own field based programmes in many endemic countries, several of which are still running successfully.
Novartis and the NFSD jointly signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with WHO in late 1999, for a donation of free MDT to cover the period 2000-2005. The donation, valued at around USD 40 million also covered the airfreight and insurance costs of shipping the MDT to designated ports of entry in endemic countries. In 2002, the donation was widened to include the provision of loose clofazimine for the treatment of erythema nodosum leprosum (ENL) reactions in leprosy.
In November 2005, Novartis and NFSD signed an agreement with WHO for the extension of their donation for a further five years. This new phase of the donation was valued at between USD 14.5 and USD 24.5 million depending on the number of cases detected over the period. In October 2010, Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO, and Mr Joseph Jimenez, CEO of Novartis, signed a further extension of their agreement, for the period 2010-2015.
In addition to Novartis’ own rigorous quality assurance, WHO routinely tests all bulk batches of rifampicin and clofazimine at independent laboratories, to ensure that endemic countries can continue to rely on the quality of the WHO supplied product.