Novartis, a global pharmaceutical company has announced a five-year commitment to fight malaria in the sub-Saharan Africa as well as investing over 100 million US dollars to advance research and development of next-generation treatments.
The commitment includes expanding access to pediatric anti-malarials and implementing capacity-building programmes to contribute to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) target of reducing malaria-related child mortality by at least, 90 per cent by 2030.
It is undertaking the fight in conjunction with the 7th Multilateral Initiative on Malaria Conference and the Malaria Summit of the Commonwealth Heads of Government.
This was announced in a statement by the company and copied to the Ghana News Agency on Wednesday.
It said new opinion research in Africa shows that 2030 malaria elimination targets were at risk and leaders have urged investment in innovative malaria prevention and treatment tools.
The statement said the company had further released new African research on “Progress and remaining challenges towards the 2030 malaria elimination targets” together with Elimination ‘8’ and the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust programme.
The statement said the company would also implement an equitable pricing strategy to maximise patient access in malaria-endemic countries when new treatments become available.
“Novartis will further help expand access to pediatric antimalarials and implement healthcare system strengthening programmes in four sub-Saharan countries,” it said.
On his part, Vas Narasimhan, the Chief Executive Officer of Novartis said: “Resistance to treatment presents the biggest threat to the incredible progress that has been made in the fight against malaria in the past 20 years.
“We cannot afford to wait; this is why we are committing to advance the research and development of next-generation treatments and at the same time, we need to work to ensure that our innovation reaches the most in need, especially those in the most remote locations.”
Narasimhan said the research and development investment was meant to advance the Novartis malaria pipeline through 2023 and to complete a comprehensive global clinical trial programmme for our novel antimalarial drug candidates KAF156 and KAE609.
“Both drugs are from new classes of medicines that were selected for their ability to treat malaria in different ways from current therapies. The investment also includes new uses of technology to identify areas where the malaria burden is greatest.”
He said the information above could then be used to support “capability and capacity-building” to establish future clinical trial sites, so the medicines could be evaluated in the populations where they were most needed.
“In order to enable patients in malaria-endemic countries to afford these new treatments once they become available, the company will implement an equitable pricing strategy based on socio-economic conditions of different population segments.
“We plan to do so in consultation with our development and funding partners and other stakeholders,” the CEO said.
Narasimhan said despite the tremendous progress made in combating malaria, one child still dies from the disease every two minutes.
He said according to the 2017 World Malaria Report, there were 216 million cases of malaria in 2016, up from 211 million cases in 2015. The number of malaria deaths was 445,000 in 2016 as against 438,000 in 2015 and over 90 percent of malaria deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa. Children under 5 are particularly at risk.