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Leprosy on the Brink of Elimination: Public Health Leaders Prepare for Final Push

Leprosy on the Brink of Elimination: Public Health Leaders Prepare for Final Push

Published 01-24-08

Submitted by Novartis

BASEL - January 24, 2008 - World Leprosy Day 2008, on Sunday January 27, heralds a historic moment: leprosy is on the brink of elimination after more than two thousand years as a disabling disease that cruelly isolated and impoverished the people it infected. Healthcare leaders from around the world will gather next week at the International Leprosy Congress in Hyderabad, India, to discuss the final push toward eradication of the disease, as well as vigilance against a resurgence.

The fight against leprosy is a major public health success. Today, only four countries in the world face a prevalence of leprosy exceeding one case per 10 000 inhabitants, compared to 122 countries in 1985. Scientists, politicians, the World Health Organization (WHO), nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and private-sector foundations have combined their efforts in the fight against the disease. Leprosy control today is at a critical juncture. Successes in fighting leprosytend to reduce the level of international attention and political commitment, but significant pockets remain in Asia, South America and Africa and could lead to a resurgence if diagnosis and treatment are neglected. The WHO reported approximately 225 000 leprosy cases worldwide at the beginning of 2007 "“ a reduction of about 98% compared to the early 1980s.

The International Leprosy Congress, probably the last to be held, from January 30 to February 4 in Hyderabad, aims to give important momentum for continued action in the fight against leprosy and contribute to the development of better tools and strategies to eradicate the disease. The Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development which administers the Novartis Multi-drug therapy (MDT) donations since 2000 will take an active role in the discussions at the congress. Throughout its involvement in leprosy treatment and control, the Novartis Foundation has pioneered unconventional approaches like social marketing, with a profound impact on the way the disease is combated globally.

Leprosy was historically more than just an infectious disease. Considered a malady of the soul as well as the body in many cultures, leprosy had disastrous consequences for those who became infected. Sufferers were ashamed of their condition and tried to hide the disease for fear of social repercussions. Lack of treatment or delays in treatment increased the risk of 2/2 disabilities that, in turn, strengthened and perpetuated the stigma of the disease "“ a vicious cycle.

Since the early 1980s, the prevalence of leprosy has declined dramatically, thanks to the development of a curative treatment and its increasing availability, free of charge, to patients. MDT, the treatment recommended by the WHO, cures leprosy patients, interrupting transmission of the disease after the first dose of medication and preventing disabilities. Two of the three drugs used in multi-drug therapy were developed in the research laboratories of Novartis.

Nearly all of the global supply of MDT is provided by a collaboration between the WHO and Novartis. Based on estimates from the WHO, Novartis MDT donations helped cure about 4.5 million patients in the past seven years. Since 2000, the company has supplied more than 37 million blister packs at a cost of about USD 64 million. Novartis has committed to work with the WHO to provide free treatment for all leprosy patients in the world at least through the end of 2010.

About the Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development
The Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development plans and supports projects designed to strengthen and secure essential healthcare provision for the poor in developing countries. Through its events and publications, it seeks to promote dialogue on development policy between public and private-sector institutions. By means of scientific analyses, it helps to define the nature and limits of corporate social responsibility, particularly for pharmaceutical companies. For further information, please visit: www.novartisfoundation.org.

About Novartis
Novartis AG provides healthcare solutions that address the evolving needs of patients and societies. Focused solely on growth areas in healthcare, Novartis offers a diversified portfolio to best meet these needs: innovative medicines, cost-saving generic pharmaceuticals, preventive vaccines and diagnostic tools, and consumer health products. Novartis is the only company with leading positions in these areas. In 2007, the Group’s continuing operations (excluding divestments in 2007) achieved net sales of USD 38.1 billion and net income of USD 6.5 billion. Approximately USD 6.4 billion was invested in R&D activities throughout the Group. Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Novartis Group companies employ approximately 98,200 full-time associates and operate in over 140 countries around the world. For more information, please visit www.novartis.com.

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Novartis

Novartis

Novartis provides innovative healthcare solutions that address the evolving needs of patients and societies. Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Novartis offers a diversified portfolio to best meet these needs: innovative medicines, eye care, cost-saving generic pharmaceuticals, preventive vaccines and diagnostic tools, over-the-counter and animal health products. Novartis is the only global company with leading positions in these areas. In 2012, the Group achieved net sales of USD 56.7 billion, while R&D throughout the Group amounted to approximately USD 9.3 billion (USD 9.1 billion excluding impairment and amortization charges). Novartis Group companies employ approximately 129,000 full-time-equivalent associates and operate in more than 140 countries around the world. For more information, please visit www.novartis.com.

 

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