Novartis and Ministry of Health sign MoU on portfolio of affordable COVID-19 medicines

November 29, 2021 | 15:28
At the Switzerland-Vietnam Business Summit in Bern, Switzerland, Novartis and Vietnam’s Ministry of Health have signed an MoU to provide affordable medicines without a profit margin for the treatment of severe COVID-19 symptoms that help stabilise critically ill patients during the pandemic.
Novartis and Ministry of Health sign MoU on portfolio of affordable COVID-19 medicines
Novartis and the Ministry of Health of Vietnam signed an MoU to provide a list of drugs for the treatment of severe COVID-19 symptoms at cost price

On behalf of Novartis International AG, Lutz Hegemann, group head, Corporate Affairs and Global Health, and Associate Professor PhD. Luong Ngoc Khue, director of the Department of Medical Service Administration of the Vietnamese Ministry of Health signed and exchanged the MoU.

Nguyen Xuan Phuc, State President of Vietnam, and Guy Parmelin, President of Switzerland, witnessed the signing during President Phuc’s state visit to Switzerland on November 26-28 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The MoU is part of the broad range of solutions Novartis is providing to help low- and lower-middle-income countries mitigate the impact of the pandemic and support healthcare systems. It covers the provision of at-cost medicines for the treatment of severe symptoms of COVID-19 throughout the pandemic and enhances access to medicines in the areas of registration, reimbursement, and procurement. The Novartis COVID-19 Pandemic Response Portfolio encompasses 15 stock-keeping units (SKUs) for the treatment of COVID-19 in its various stages. Expected to be available in Vietnam in the near future, the portfolio aims to ensure the continuous supply of COVID-19 medicines supply and enhance patients' access to innovative medicines, flexible adaptation to COVID-19 to recover the economy.

Importance of Novartis COVID-19 Pandemic Response Portfolio

Vietnam was hit by a brutal fourth wave of COVID-19 infections in April 2021. Thanks to the country's effective pandemic response, the surge of infections has been controlled. With increasing vaccination uptake, the government is now focusing on treatment to reduce cases and mortality, and enable people to safely and flexibly adapt to the new normal.

The COVID-19 situation in the country is changing rapidly with many complexities, putting more pressure on the entire healthcare system. As such, all stakeholders need to work together to ensure people have convenient access to critical medicines and vaccines.

Currently, Vietnam is striving to minimise the number of patients with severe symptoms, especially in the southern provinces, and recently in northern areas, where the number of COVID-19 infections has soared recently. COVID-19 medicines have helped reduce the number of hospitalisation, serious cases, and deaths.

Novartis increases footprint and reaffirms vision in Vietnam

The MoU created a collaboration framework for the Novartis COVID-19 Pandemic Response Portfolio in Vietnam. It provides additional support to the Novartis Access portfolio in the country (on- and off-patent medicines against key non-communicable diseases) via local Novartis affiliates.

The MoU demonstrates Novartis’ commitment to be a trusted partner of governments, worldwide organisations in strengthening healthcare systems, improving patients’ treatment outcomes, and pioneering innovative solutions through digital transformation.

Novartis and Ministry of Health sign MoU on portfolio of affordable COVID-19 medicines
The Switzerland-Vietnam Business Summit

The COVID-19 Pandemic Response Portfolio is Novartis’ latest contribution to Vietnam’s efforts to combat the pandemic and support the stability of the local healthcare systems. The company plans to provide affordable, high-quality generic medicines and biosimilars through its Sandoz division while supporting patients affected by COVID-19 by ensuring uninterrupted access to medicines supply.

Currently, Novartis focuses on three divisions in Vietnam: Innovative Medicines (Novartis Pharmaceuticals), Oncology Medicines (Oncology Business Unit), high-quality Generics and Biosimilars (Sandoz). Since 2011, Novartis has been cooperating with over 30 leading hospitals and nearly 1,000 doctors and pharmacists to conduct nearly 50 clinical trials in Vietnam with total research and development investment of more than $10 million.

The Vietnamese government targets to develop the local pharma industry, with the goal of making Vietnam a Life & Science Hub of ASEAN in the next 10 years. In March 2021, the government issued Decision No.376/QD-TTG approving the programme to develop the pharmaceutical industry until 2030, with a strong focus on local manufacturing and technology transfer. A more holistic National Strategy for the Development of the Pharmaceutical Industry vision for 2045 is being drafted. This strategy is expected to be the foundation for pharma-policy development and investment incentives in the coming decades.

Accompanying the healthcare sector on this development path, Novartis commits to advocating for policies and capability development to support Vietnam move up the value chain. These include improving the environment for innovation, clinical trials, speeding up registration, reimbursement timelines, and attractiveness for localisation and localised projects.

Novartis proposed to improve the sustainability and predictability of the investment environment to (i) improve the speed of access to innovative medicines, through regulatory harmonisation and effective, timely implementation of administrative simplification procedures; (ii) to build trust in the investment environment by ensuring predictability, sustainability. This is key to providing confidence for companies to make long-term investment decisions; and (ii) develop sustainable health financing solutions that focus on quality and patient access, considering outcome/value-based delivery.

Amitabh Dube, country president, Novartis Vietnam said: “This MoU shows our effort to promote access pricing for essential drugs used to treat patients infected with COVID-19. During COVID-19, access to medicines can be a challenge for patients in low- and lower-middle-income countries, including Vietnam. Through the COVID-19 portfolio, we expect to help address growing local medication demands, thus helping improve access to innovative medicines, and save more lives.”

By Bich Thuy

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