Neglected tropical diseases

WHO and Novartis extend agreement to treat millions of leprosy patients with free medicines

27 August 2015 | Geneva
© WHO
Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO, and Mr Joseph Jimenez, Chief Executive Officer of Novartis


The World Health Organization (WHO) and the pharmaceutical company Novartis today signed a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) extending the provision of multidrug therapy (MDT) free of charge to all leprosy patients worldwide until the end of 2020.

Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO, and Mr Joseph Jimenez, Chief Executive Officer of Novartis, signed the agreement, which allows Novartis to continue providing multidrug therapy (a combination of rifampicin, dapsone and clofazimine) free of charge to all countries where the disease is endemic.

Expanded access to high-quality multidrug therapy remains a critical element in efforts to eliminate leprosy. WHO’s collaboration with Novartis started in 2000 under a first MoU, which was renewed in 2005 and again in 2010, with the latter ending in December 2015.

Leprosy control has improved significantly as a result of national and subnational campaigns in most endemic countries. MDT provides a simple and a highly effective cure for all types of leprosy. Elimination of leprosy as a public health problem1 was achieved globally in 2000.

WHO continues to advocate the integration of primary leprosy control services into existing general health services, with focus now shifting to underserved populations and inaccessible areas.

The number of new cases reported globally in 2013 was 215 656 compared with 232 857 in 2012 and 226 626 in 2011.

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1A prevalence rate of less than 1 case per 10 000 population at global level.