MMV and Novartis launch Coartem® Dispersible in Africa

Coartem® Dispersible, the first dispersible ACT[*] for children, launched this week in Africa by Novartis and Medicines for Malaria Venture
15 February 2009
  • Regional events planned this week in Dar es Salaam, Dakar, and Maputo
  • Builds on success of Coartem®, Novartis’ most-widely distributed medicine with more than 215 million treatments provided without profit
  • Sweet-tasting and easy-to-administer, Coartem Dispersible offers cure rates of more than 97% for uncomplicated childhood malaria cases
  • Coartem Dispersible is the result of a unique public-private collaboration between Novartis and the nonprofit Medicines for Malaria Venture

Dar es Salaam, February 16, 2009 - Novartis and Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) announced today the start of the Africa launch week of Coartem Dispersible. Coartem Dispersible is the result of a unique public-private collaboration between Novartis and the nonprofit Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV). The announcement was made today in Dar es Salaam at the start of a week-long pan-African introduction of Coartem Dispersible, which includes regional events in Mozambique and Senegal.

"Africa bears the overwhelming burden of malaria. We are losing our children - and therefore our future - to this disease. Now we have a life-saving, dispersible antimalarial drug made specifically for children. This represents a major advance towards our target of achieving universal coverage with treatment by 2010," said Prof Awa Marie Coll-Seck, Executive Director, Roll Back Malaria Partnership.

Until now, many healthcare workers and parents have had to crush bitter-tasting antimalarial tablets for their children to swallow. Coartem Dispersible tablets enable parents to give the sweet-tasting malaria medicine to their children more easily and, in the process, ensure they receive full effective doses.

"Getting babies to take bitter malaria medicines is always difficult, but now mothers in Africa can easily give their children a sweet tasting and effective cure which will save their lives," said Dr. Chris Hentschel, President and CEO of Medicines for Malaria Venture. "This could not have happened without the support of our funders who are all committed to malaria innovation and one day, eliminating this deadly disease."

A clinical study reported in The Lancet by Dr Salim Abdulla of the Ifakara Health Institute in Tanzania showed that Coartem Dispersible provides a high cure rate of 97.8%, which is comparable to that of Coartem (98.5%). Investigators also reported that it had a good safety profile [1].

"This new Coartem Dispersible tablet can help improve treatment and compliance saving many of the more than 700,000 children under five who die each year from malaria," said Dr. Daniel Vasella, chairman and CEO of Novartis. "I am pleased that we can provide a clearly better formulation to help ensure children with malaria receive and can take an effective therapy."

The launch of Coartem Dispersible is a week-long series of regional events throughout Africa, focusing on malaria treatment, prevention and eradication. Coartem Dispersible events are taking place in Dar es Salaam on 16 February, Maputo on 19 February, and in Dakar on 20 February.

Coartem Dispersible builds on the enormous success of Coartem (artemether/lumefantrine 20 mg/120 mg), the leading ACT in Africa. Since 2001, in a unique collaboration with international organizations, Novartis has provided more than 215 million Coartem treatment courses for public sector use in malaria-endemic developing countries without profit. Thanks to production efficiency gains and increasing demand for Coartem, Novartis has driven down the cost in order to make it more accessible to people with malaria. After nearly halving the price since launch, the average cost of a full treatment course is 0.80 USD. For the youngest patients, a full treatment course costs just 0.37 USD through public sector sources.

As part of its ongoing commitment to patients and health workers, Novartis and MMV also provide malaria case management educational programs, which include hands-on training for local healthcare workers, customized training manuals, and user-friendly packaging to ensure that Coartem Dispersible is properly used and to improve patient compliance. Like Coartem, Coartem Dispersible will be provided to the public sector without profit to benefit those people most in need in the developing world.

In addition to Swissmedic, Coartem Dispersible is approved by 17 regulatory authorities in Africa. These countries include Benin, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania, Togo, and Zambia.

To support this project and the largest malaria R&D pipeline in history, MMV receives funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Irish Aid, Netherlands Minister Development Co-Operation, Rockefeller Foundation, Spanish Government, Swiss Government, UK DFID, USAID, US National Institute of Health, Wellcome Trust, WHO/RBM and World Bank and the ExxonMobil Foundation.

Each year there are an estimated 57 million cases of malaria in East Africa, with nearly one million malaria-related deaths reported around the world [2]. Nine out of ten malaria deaths occur in sub Saharan Africa, and the vast majority of malaria-related deaths occur in children. Across Africa, a child dies every 30 seconds from malaria [3].

About Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV)

 

About Novartis

Novartis AG provides healthcare solutions that address the evolving needs of patients and societies. Focused solely on healthcare, Novartis offers a diversified portfolio to best meet these needs: innovative medicines, cost-saving generic pharmaceuticals, preventive vaccines, 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 97,000 full-time associates and operate in over 140 countries around the world. For more information, please visit http://www.novartis.com.

Novartis was named a Super Sector Leader by the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) in 2007. In the same year, 66 million patients around the world benefited from Novartis programs valued at USD 937 million. These initiatives range from drug donation and research programs to combat neglected diseases like malaria, tuberculosis and leprosy in developing nations, to patient assistance programs that help cancer patients receive the most innovative and effective treatments available. For further information, please consult http://www.novartis.com.


[*] Artemisinin-based combination therapy


[1] Salim et al, Efficacy and safety of artemether-lumefantrine dispersible tablet in African infants and children with uncomplicated malaria: a randomised, investigator-blinded, multi-centre comparison with the crushed commercial tablet; The Lancet (2008) www.thelancet.com; published online October 15, 2008 DOI:10.1016/S0140-6736(08)61492-0

[2] Children and Malaria. World Health Organization Roll Back Malaria Web site. (not longer available)

[3] Malaria Fact Sheet. World Health Organization Web site. (no longer available)