Novartis Foundation’s new leprosy contact tracing programme launched in five countries
Novartis has renewed its pledge with the World Health Organization (WHO) to work to end leprosy by extending its donation of multi-drug therapy (MDT) medicines to treat leprosy through the year 2020. This five-year agreement includes treatments worth more than $40 million and up to $2.5 million to support the WHO in handling the donation and logistics. Overall, it is expected that the programme will reach an estimated 1.3 million patients during the next five years. This is part of the company’s commitment in 2012 to the London Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases.
“Leprosy is a treatable disease and multi-drug therapy remains the cornerstone of the global leprosy elimination strategy,” said Joseph Jimenez, Chief Executive Officer, Novartis. “We are proud to continue our work with the WHO to provide free treatment to leprosy patients worldwide. We also remain committed to our ongoing collaboration with governments, international agencies, non-governmental organisations and the private sector to bring leprosy back onto the global health agenda and work toward our common goal of making leprosy history.”
Novartis and the Novartis Foundation have a long-term commitment to leprosy treatment and control. Since 2000, Novartis has donated more than 56 million blister packs valued at approximately $90 million through the WHO, helping to treat more than six million leprosy patients worldwide.
LPEP (Leprosy Post-Exposure Prophylaxis), a key programme in the new strategy, has recently launched in India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal and Tanzania, with a pilot in Sri Lanka planned for launch later this year. LPEP is designed to decrease the risk of developing leprosy, and reduce further transmission of the mycobacteria causing the disease. In this project, being done in collaboration with International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations (ILEP) partners, the family, friends and other contacts of newly diagnosed patients are examined for leprosy and provided treatment if they also have leprosy, or preventative therapy if they are asymptomatic. This could decrease the risk of contacts developing leprosy in the years following contact by as much as 50-60 per cent.