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Lucy Chard
26 Jun 2023

Novartis agrees for copies to be made of cancer drug to reach poorer countries

Novartis signs agreement with MPP to have generics of it's leukemia drug made so that it can be more easily distributed to the world's poorer countries. 

Equitable access to medicine around the world is a challenge in the healthcare industry, which has been gaining in attention over the last few years. To address this challenge, over a year ago, eight of the biggest pharma companies came together in the field of oncology to look to provide treatment to some of the world’s poorest countries in terms of healthcare. 

The Access to Oncology Medicines (ATOM) coalition was formed in May of 2022, by Novartis, AstraZeneca, BeiGene, Bristol Myers Squibb, Gilead, Roche, Sanofi, and Teva. Since the initial formation, other leaders in oncology therapeutic development and manufacturing have added their names, including Amgen, Eli Lilly, Merck, Pfizer, and Thermo Fisher Scientific. 

In these nations, consisting of some of the world’s most vulnerable people, oncology treatment is limited or completely unavailable. 

Now, even more steps are being taken to ensure treatment can be provided in low- to middle-income countries. 
The Medicines Patent Pool (MPP), founded in 2010 by Unitaid and backed by the United Nations has signed four drugmakers to produce generics of a cancer therapeutic. This adds to their portfolio of agreements for HIV antiretrovirals, hepatitis C antiretrovirals, COVID-19 treatments, among others. 

The drugmakers will be tasked to produce versions of Novartis’ myeloid leukemia blockbuster Tasigna (nilotinib), even though it is still under a patent in the US. The companies, BrightGene, based in Indonesia, and Dr. Reddy’s, Eugia and Hetero, all based in India, will be working to manufacture the generics in Egypt, Guatamala, Morocco, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Tunisia and distribute to 44 territories. 

“We have seen great gains in cancer survival in the richest countries over the last decade, however, the benefit of our innovation is not reaching everyone,” Lutz Hagemann, President of Global Health and Sustainability at Novartis, stated recently.

“Through public-private partnerships, we aim to address barriers to healthcare and expand access to innovative treatment solutions for the long-term for as many people as possible.”

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These efforts to increase global access to cancer treatments comes after the stark realisation that less developed countries were not receiving the level of cancer care for their populations that they should. In 2020 the WHO released figures stating that 3.5 million new cancer cases were diagnosed every year in low- and middle-income countries, responsible for 2.3 million premature deaths. A figure which is predicted to increase to 4 million deaths in the next 20 years without drastic intervention.

“We are determined to show that voluntary licensing is a truly impactful way of delivering affordable treatments to tackle the ever-rising burden of cancer in low- and middle-income countries,” Charles Gore, Director of the MPP stated.

Source: Fierce Pharma. Generics to Novartis' leukemia drug Tasigna to reach poor countries under 4 MPP licenses. [Date accessed 23/06/2023]. 

Mentioned Companies
Dr. Reddy's Laboratories Ltd.
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Hetero Labs Limited
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Novartis Global Biotech Cooperations
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Lucy Chard
Digital Editor - Pharma

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