Novartis to introduce affordable chronicle diseases’ treatment to Ethiopia

By Andualem Sisay Gessesse – Novartis, a global healthcare company based in Switzerland, is set to introduce a new program to Ethiopia that aims to make affordable treatment of chronicle diseases in low and middle income countries.

The program targets treatment of breast cancer, hypertension, asthma and diabetes patients for $1 per month per treatment.

“Novartis has started a new program in Ethiopia called Novartis Access. This program is going to tackle non communicable diseases also known as chronicle diseases mainly breast cancer, hyperbatons, asthma and diabetes. We are providing this service at a cost of $1 per month per treatment,”said Dr. Nathan Mulure, Novartis Social Business cluster head for Southern and East Africa.

As part of its corporate social responsibility, for the past few years the Social Business wing of Novartis has been implimenting similar programs in other countries including, Kenya, Rwanda, Cameroon and Zimbabwe.

The Swiss multinational pharmaceutical company is also plains to provide capacity building programs for the people in the rural areas in areas of early symptom detection of non-communicable diseases. Novartis is planning to expand its Novartis Access program in Nigeria and Zambia.

The reason these diseases are selected is because more and more people
are dying from such non- communicable diseases. “…For Ethiopia for example by the year 2040, 70% of the death will be due of non-communicable diseases. So, it is now important for us to take measures early by making available making these products at an affordable cost,” he said. Currently 4 out of 10 Ethiopians die due to non-communicable diseases.

In 2017 Novartis Social Business provided 30 million plus medicines against infectious and chronic disease and reached over 7.5 million people with health education, according to a presentation by Dr. Nathan Mulure.

How it works
The program is being implemented following the memorandum of understanding the company signed with the government of Ethiopia in 2015. In addition to supplying some 15 basket of drugs to the government under the program, Novartis will also work with government and other partners to ensure that screening programs are put in place such as, training local health care providers on how to tackle these diseases.

“In Ethiopia we are so excited because we are going to involve community health workers to ensure that they are well equipped to handle or detect these diseases or symptoms by doing blood measurements in the villages and screening,” he said.

If patients are discovered to have these diseases or high blood sugar or hypertension, the patients will be referred to high centers for treatment, according to Dr. Nathan Mulure, who spoke with journalists in Addis Ababa this afternoon.

It is expected that the program will be implemented across the country in 15 hospitals, 45 health centers and dozens of Ethiopia Red Cross drug stores.

Novartis Access program involves products from Novartis Pharmaceuticals and Sandoz selected based on criterions such as, significant health needs, medical relevance and lack of local access programs. It aims to offer various treatment options, including well-proven and standard first line treatments as well as some of the latest treatment choices.

Global burden
Reports show that non communicable diseases namely cancer, cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes cause 60% of all global deaths.

Annually 31 million people die from cardiovascular diseases, diabetes,
respiratory diseases and cancer from the low and middle income countries, representing 80% of deaths from non-communicable diseases globally. Three out of every five new cancer cases is estimated to occur in the developing world.

Healthy life
In order to fight these diseases, physicians advice healthy diet with
emphasis on plant sources, such as fruits, vegetables, grain as well
as maintaining healthy weight throughout lifetime.

In addition, stopping tobacco use, avoiding exposure to passive smoke as well as limiting alcohol consumption and maintaining physically active life style is also recommended by many researchers.

Reducing salt, sugar and cooking oil consumption in daily diets has also been suggested as crucial in order to live longer healthy life.