ZURICH, Jul 16 (Reuters) – Novartis’ Sandoz division will not make a profit from 15 generic drugs it is making available to developing countries to treat the symptoms of COVID-19, the Swiss drug maker said Thursday.
FILE PHOTO: The Novartis company logo on a building of the Swiss pharmaceutical company in Rotkreuz, Switzerland, on January 29, 2020. REUTERS / Arnd Wiegmann / File photo
Novartis said it will provide drugs, ranging from antibiotics and steroids to diarrhea tablets, to 79 countries on the World Bank’s list of low- and lower-middle-income nations.
The Basel-based drug maker plans to maintain the zero-profit program until the pandemic ends or a vaccine or cure is found, Novartis Global Health chief operating officer Lutz Hegemann said in an interview.
The company has said it has not seen a shortage in the supply chain despite growing demand for COVID-19 drugs.
Hegemann said this new program aims to help maintain vulnerable health systems in Africa, Asia, South America and the European countries Ukraine and Moldova without being overburdened.
“We should not underestimate the stress that COVID places particularly on fragile healthcare systems,” Hegemann told Reuters, adding that Novartis hopes to work with health authorities, religious organizations and NGOs to eliminate large profit margins.
“We do not go to the classic commercial distribution channels, but to very direct channels, to influence it as far as possible,” he said.
Novartis’ brand name drugs have had little application in the treatment of the new coronavirus, but Sandoz generics are among the drugs commonly used to treat symptoms of hospitalized patients.
The list includes the antibiotics amoxicillin, ceftriaxone, clarithromycin, vancomycin, and levofloxacin, the steroids dexamethasone, prednisone, and prednisolone, colchicine for the treatment of gout, the drug for heart failure dobutamine, the antifungal drug fluconazole, the anticoagulant heparin, the antidiarrheal loperamide, the reflux medication pantoprazole and the lung drug salbutamol.
Its generic antimalarial drug, hydroxychloroquine, has not been included, after some trials of COVID-19 concluded it was not working and the United States canceled the emergency authorization, although Novartis continues to provide it for trials and at the request of States.
Hegemann did not elaborate on the possible costs of these medicines, compared to commercial prices. Drugs have been around for decades and their production is relatively cheap.
Information from John Miller; edited by Jane Merriman, translated by Michael Susin at the Gdansk newsroom