The Swiss pharmaceuticals giant, Novartis, has signed a deal with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to provide African countries with its newest anti-malaria drug at a reduced price.This content was published on May 23, 2001 - 15:18
Novartis agreed to supply the new therapy, called Coartem, to WHO at cost - $2.40 for a full treatment of 24 tablets. The therapy costs up to $40 in the West.
Gro Harlem Brundtland, director-general of WHO, welcomed the move as a "really good deal for global health".
WHO estimates that malaria, spread by the Anopheles mosquito, affects over 300 million people and kills one million of them annually. Most of those who die are African children under five.
In the past 10 years the parasite which causes the disease has grown increasingly resistant to the most common drug, chloroquine. But tests with Coartem have achieved cure rates above 95 per cent even in regions where resistance to anti-malaria drugs is very high.
As part of the agreement, WHO said it will appoint a panel of experts to oversee requests for the drug and distribute it through the governments of affected countries.
The managing director of Novartis, Daniel Vasella, said: "Novartis is willing to give up some of its profits to guarantee the treatment of patients who would otherwise have no chance of receiving effective care."
The deal comes as the pharmaceutical industry faces pressure to provide AIDS drugs at low prices to developing countries. Drug companies have moved to cut the price of AIDS treatment in recent months.
The industry also supplies free or low-cost drugs for a number of other diseases in developing countries.
swissinfo with agencies
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