Developing countries to get cut price heart drugs

1st October 2015

Swiss drugmaker Novartis says it is planning to add heart disease treatments to the cut price drugs it provides to poor countries.

It says it plans to sell drugs for chronic heart disease, diabetes and other non-infectious diseases for a dollar for a month’s supply to people in countries such as Ethiopia and Kenya.


Previously drugmakers’ charity programmes have usually focused on infectious diseases, malaria, HIV and tuberculosis, all major killers in developing countries.

But chronic diseases related to lifestyle and genetics are becoming more common in those countries.

The World Health Organisation now estimates that in low and middle-income countries, about 28 million people now die every year from heart disease, diabetes, respiratory disorders and cancers.

So Novartis says it has decided to focus its charity programme on those diseases. Included in the scheme will be 15 drugs for high blood pressure, chronic heart failure, cholesterol problems, diabetes, breast cancer, asthma and respiratory infections. The company expects that it will help many more patients get these medications.

The drugmaker plans to start shipping the medications by the end of the year to government and charity health projects in Ethiopia, Kenya and Vietnam.

More countries are expected to be included in future years in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe.

Novartis chairman Joerg Reinhardt said he thinks the schemewill be financially sustainable over the long term and could eventually cover all its costs, due to its large scale.

That’s partly because all but one of the drugs in the programme is generic.

The drugs will be made at existing factories around the world and will have the same quality standard as its medicines sold elsewhere, said Mr Reinhardt.

“I don’t think any other pharmaceutical company has ever done such a broad approach,” Mr Reinhardt said.