The burden of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) like cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cancer in the developing world is increasing. These conditions disproportionally affect poverty-stricken areas. Already today 28 million people die each year from these types of diseases in low- and middle-income countries – representing nearly 75% of deaths from NCDs globally.
Combined with the existing challenge of managing infectious diseases, these countries are now confronted by a double disease burden. Because chronic illnesses require early detection and long-term, ongoing treatment, we need new ways to ensure access to medicines for NCDs in countries where people often have limited access to healthcare.
Against this background, in 2015 we launched Novartis Access. The program focuses on affordability and availability of 15 on- and off-patent medicines addressing key NCDs ¬– cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, respiratory illnesses and breast cancer.
Chronic diseases are not rich-country diseases, nor old-people diseases. Eight million children, adolescents and working-age adults die each year in lower-income countries from these diseases. That’s more than AIDS, TB and malaria combined.
The products included in the portfolio have been selected based on medical relevance. The treatments are either on or pertain to a class included in the World Health Organization’s Model List of Essential Medicines, or belong to the most frequently prescribed medicines.
A first in the industry, the Novartis Access portfolio is offered as a basket to governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other public-sector healthcare providers at a price of USD 1 per treatment per month. We are also actively seeking to partner with these players to strengthen healthcare systems. Areas of potential collaboration include programs to raise awareness about diseases, train healthcare workers to diagnose and treat chronic illnesses and strengthen medicine distribution systems.
Novartis Access has been set up to be commercially sustainable over the long term, enabling continuous support for patients in these regions. The governments, NGOs and other stakeholders we consulted during the planning phase underlined the importance of a long-term perspective to fight chronic diseases; they stressed that while donations are important, they are not scalable enough to make a lasting impact overall.
Our plan is to roll out Novartis Access in 30 countries in the coming years – depending on government and stakeholder demand. Learnings from the ground will guide our future expansion.
We know that we won’t solve the access challenge with this program alone, but we believe it can make a significant contribution to improving the lives of patients in low and lower middle income countries and help stem the tide of NCDs.
In recent years, noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, respiratory diseases and cancers have become an emerging pandemic globally with disproportionately higher rates in developing countries.
2 Novartis Access portfolio will include Novartis Pharmaceuticals products valsartan (hypertension), vildagliptin (diabetes) and letrozole (breast cancer), as well as high-quality generic medicines from Sandoz to treat heart failure and hypertension (amlodipine, bisoprolol, HCT, furosemide, ramipril), dyslipidemia (simvastatin), diabetes (glimepiride, metformin), breast cancer (anastrozole, tamoxifen), asthma and COPD (salbutamol, amoxicillin).