Leprosy is one of the oldest diseases known to man, and today an estimated 2-3 million people are living with physical disabilities and are facing stigmatization as a result of the disease. The Novartis Foundation has made a long-term commitment to interrupt transmission and to achieve zero new cases of leprosy.
In January 2018, the foundation joined other leading leprosy organizations to launch the Global Partnership for Zero Leprosy. The partnership aims to accelerate progress toward a world without leprosy.
The common vision is zero leprosy. Therefore, we need to accelerate progress in the fight against this ancient disease by aligning the leprosy community behind a common goal to halt the further spread of leprosy.
Vas Narasimhan, CEO of Novartis and a member of the Novartis Foundation Board of Trustees
For over 30 years, Novartis and the Novartis Foundation have been working with partners around the world on innovative approaches to eliminate leprosy. The foundation has pioneered research in leprosy diagnostics and is pursuing new ways to screen for the disease.
Since the introduction of Multidrug Therapy (MDT) in 1981, the global burden of leprosy has been reduced by 99%. Novartis has proudly donated MDT through the World Health Organization (WHO) since 2000, reaching 7 million patients worldwide earlier this year.
One of the main difficulties in eliminating diseases is that as diseases get rarer, health systems become less equipped to deal with them as healthcare professionals see fewer cases and receive less training, making the diagnosis of the disease increasingly difficult.
Leprosy often occurs in hard-to-reach communities, and diagnosis is frequently further delayed because patients fear discrimination and social stigma. If left untreated, the infection can continue to spread.
Today, more than 80% of new cases of leprosy occur in India, Brazil and Indonesia.
To achieve zero leprosy, we must focus on exploring new ways to interrupt disease transmission by diagnosing and treating patients earlier.
Reimagining leprosy treatment and taking new innovative approaches
The Novartis Foundation is working on programs that focus on diagnosing and treating patients earlier through innovative diagnostic methods and screening initiatives, including contact tracing and providing preventative treatment.
The Leprosy Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (LPEP) program, launched by the Novartis Foundation, is operational in Brazil, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Myanmar, Tanzania and Sri Lanka. It provides preventative treatment to close contacts of newly diagnosed patients – such as family members and friends – to reduce their risk of developing leprosy.
In January 2018, the Global Partnership for Zero Leprosy was established by leading leprosy organizations, including the Novartis Foundation.
The partnership aims to accelerate progress toward a world without leprosy by coordinating research activities, strengthening existing national leprosy programs, and increasing advocacy and fundraising.