Emily Whitehead was once a little girl close to death. At just 5 years old, she developed an aggressive form of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) that chemotherapy was unable to tame. Several years later, as a last hope, she was enrolled in a clinical trial and became the first pediatric patient in the world to receive the CAR-T cell therapy now known as Kymriah. The therapy worked, and today Emily is a happy, healthy 12-year-old in complete remission.
Our ability to deliver new breakthrough treatments like Kymriah is one of the many reasons I am proud of our company and our performance in 2017
Our ability to deliver new breakthrough treatments like Kymriah is one of the many reasons I am proud of our company and our performance in 2017. Despite navigating the final year of the Gleevec/Glivec patent expiration, we grew Group net sales by 2% in constant currencies (cc). This performance is being driven by recently launched products such as Cosentyx, which reached multi-blockbuster status, and Entresto, which achieved USD 507 million in full-year sales, as well as oncology products such as Promacta/Revolade and Tafinlar + Mekinist. Sandoz is expanding access to biosimilars, and we have a leading portfolio with five biosimilars now on the market. However, Sandoz net sales were down 2% cc due to fierce price competition in the US. Alcon made significant progress on its turnaround, returning to growth and building momentum toward the end of the year, supported by the launch of innovative new products and continued double-digit growth in sales of Dailies Total1 contact lenses. We’ve updated Alcon’s strategic plan, indicating its potential to grow sales at or above market while delivering profitability at least in line with the industry.
Since 2015, we have transformed our portfolio and focused the company on leading businesses with innovation power and global scale, which contributed to our solid 2017 performance. In addition, we now have the right organizational structure in place to enable future growth. Notably, we’ve centralized Global Drug Development, enabling the organization to more effectively leverage new technologies such as advanced analytics to speed clinical trials and bring medicines to market faster. We’re building one of the most powerful pipelines in the industry with multiple potential blockbusters, and we’re pursuing strategic collaborations to further strengthen our innovation.
At the same time, we’re leading the industry’s shift toward outcomes-based pricing and we’re piloting new commercial models using real-world evidence to help illustrate the value our products bring to patients and payers. We have implemented a novel collaboration with the US Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services for Kymriah that will allow for payment only when pediatric and young adult ALL patients respond to this therapy by the end of the first month. The agreement also includes an indication-based pricing approach, supporting payments for a medicine based on the clinical outcomes achieved. This potentially lowers prices for future indications, bringing savings to the healthcare system.
I’m also proud of the cultural shift we have made, focusing on our mission of improving and extending people’s lives. We’re having a significant impact on millions of patients every day and we reached nearly 1 billion patients in 2017 alone. As a purpose-driven organization, we ranked fourth on Fortune magazine’s “Change the World” list in 2017, and we moved to fourth in the 2017 Dow Jones Sustainability Index World, up from seventh in 2016. We continued to expand our efforts to eliminate malaria, for example by working with Medicines for Malaria Venture to initiate a clinical trial for KAF156, our next-generation antimalarial compound with the potential to treat drug-resistant strains of the malaria parasite. We also made progress in our efforts to expand access to healthcare. For instance, our Novartis Access program, which offers a portfolio of medicines for chronic diseases at a price of USD 1 per treatment, per month, delivered more than 800 000 treatments to lower-income patients since its launch in 2015.
As many of you know, I have decided to step down as CEO of Novartis after eight years in this position and 10 years with the company. I am confident that Vasant Narasimhan is the right person to lead this company into our next growth phase, and that the changes we have made position the company for future success. I am most thankful to our associates for their creativity, energy and engagement. Our associates all over the world are committed to our mission, and they are the best in the industry. I will miss all of them. I also want to thank our Board of Directors for their support and collaboration over the years, and you – our shareholders – for your continued confidence in Novartis.