Monday 30 March 2020
Novartis, the Good Samaritan
As discussed in a previous post, the Covid-19 pandemic is an excellent opportunity for the pharmaceutical industry to demonstrate its commitment to serving the world through philanthropy. Novartis recently stated that it will “donate up to 130 million doses” of a generic drug which may be a good treatment for coronavirus. The Press Release further outlines Novartis’ other efforts to combat Covid-19. Notably, Gilead Sciences received a significant amount of criticism for its attempt to get a potential treatment for Covid-19 orphan status under U.S. law—which it has since withdrawn. Professor Lisa Larrimore Ouellette has an excellent analysis of the situation, here. The Novartis Press Release states, in part:
Basel, March 20, 2020 - Novartis announced today its commitment to donate up to 130 million doses of generic hydroxychloroquine to support the global COVID-19 pandemic response. Hydroxychloroquine and a related drug, chloroquine, are currently under evaluation in clinical trials for the treatment of COVID-19. Novartis is supporting ongoing clinical trial efforts, and will evaluate needs for additional clinical trials.
When supported for use in COVID-19 infected patients by regulatory authorities, Novartis intends to donate up to 130 million 200 mg doses by the end of May, including its current stock of 50 million 200 mg doses. The company is also exploring further scaling of capacity to increase supply and is committed to working with manufacturers around the world to meet global demand.
Novartis Sandoz division currently only holds a registration for hydroxychloroquine in the U.S., and will pursue appropriate regulatory authorizations from the U.S. FDA and the European Medicines Agency. Novartis will work with stakeholders including the World Health Organization to determine the best distribution of the medicine to ensure broad access to patients most in need of this medicine globally. The company aims to ensure that patients currently depending on this medicine are not impacted by the donation.
The commitment announced today builds on the previously announced commitments of a USD 20 million Novartis COVID-19 Response Fund, drug discovery collaboration efforts, support of clinical trials for existing Novartis medicines, and the Sandoz commitment to maintain stable prices on a basket of essential medicines that may help in the treatment of COVID-19.
Novartis intends to work closely with other manufacturers to scale up production of hydroxychloroquine as necessary to support global supply, and encourages industry, governments and international institutions to ensure adequate global supply of medications to treat COVID-19 patients.