Pharma initiatives to cure the needy

February 28, 2020 | 12:00
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Multinational pharmaceutical groups are seeking ways to support Vietnamese in accessing medical services, and widen their market share in the country in the face of drastic competition.
pharma initiatives to cure the needy
Strong investment ensures Novartis can remain committed to provision of drugs. Photo: Le Toan

Last month, with investment of $6 million, the Swiss medicines group Novartis inaugurated its new legal entity in Vietnam under the name Novartis Vietnam Co., Ltd. On the occasion, the company announced the arrival of its first medicine shipment at the port of Ho Chi Minh City.

“We strive to enhance Vietnam’s access to high-quality, innovative medicine, and will invest in strengthening local research and development capabilities,” said Roeland Roelofs, country president of Novartis Vietnam.

According to Roelofs, as a committed partner of the government, Novartis has been supporting the healthcare system with various initiatives and continues to contribute to socio-economic progress.

One of the initiatives is the Glivec International Patient Assistance Program. This was a scheme to support patients with chronic myeloid leukaemia and gastrointestinal stromal tumours who have health insurance for no less than 36 months, with medicine completely free of charge. The programme has been implemented by Novartis since 2001 to support patients globally in over 80 low- and middle-income countries through the Max Foundation.

In Vietnam, the programme has been implemented since 2005, and supported 100 per cent of the cost of Glivec drug treatment for 8,000 patients in seven hospitals nationwide.

Besides this, Novartis also implemented the Vietnam Patient Assistance Program to support patients with leukaemia or intestinal tumours to receive Glivec or Tasigna completely free of charge. The costs of this programme were covered by the Health Insurance Fund and Novartis.

According to Novartis’ plan, the two programmes were to end last year but have been extended for an extra two months. The calculation of the Ministry of Health (MoH) shows that without the support, on average, each patient would need to pay about VND500 million ($21,750) per year. The market price for the drug is about VND1.2-1.6 million ($50-70) per day.

Although the company has made no official announcement about its next support programme, Novartis is expected to reduce the drug’s price by one-third.

Another multinational that has been granted leave to import and export medicine in Vietnam is AstraZeneca.

“Our company will invest VND5 billion ($220 million) in the next five years to promote clinical trials research and increase patients’ access to the healthcare system,” Nitin Kapoor, president of AstraZeneca Vietnam, said. “We will create 500 highly-qualified jobs in biomedical sciences, pharmaceuticals, and business administration, thereby providing Vietnamese talent with many opportunities for professional development and participation in the global AstraZeneca system.”

The company has established 130 research units throughout the country and is committed to promoting scientific development and offering life-changing drugs.

Since 2013, AstraZeneca has invested about $37 million to support the implementation of clinical trial studies in Vietnam. The 28 ongoing studies raise hopes for more than 3,300 Vietnamese participants and patients who might profit from the results.

According to Kapoor, his company aims to reduce incidences of non-communicable diseases through building a patient-centred ecosystem which will bring about positive improvements throughout the healthcare journey.

Meanwhile, Zuellig Pharma, one of the largest healthcare service groups in Asia, has supported Vietnam by presenting more than 600 innovative eZCooler boxes to representatives of the northern provinces of Hai Duong, Bac Ninh, Son La, Yen Bai, Ha Giang, and Quang Ninh to enhance access to vaccines in these areas.

Before presenting these boxes, the company had co-operated with the National Institute for Control of Vaccines and Biologicals and Zuellig Pharma Vietnam to provide training courses to local healthcare staff. “This demonstrates our group’s long-term commitment to supporting the community, especially in vaccinations – a key task for the sector in Vietnam,” said Marc Franck, chief executive of Zuellig Pharma Vietnam.

According to Franck, by providing the eZCooler boxes, his company is supporting Vietnam’s expanded programme on immunisation and helps to deliver vaccines to areas that are geographically difficult to reach while ensuring the integrity of the vaccines during transport. “We are pleased to be part of the effort of making high-quality vaccines more accessible,” Franck added.

Zuellig Pharma also carries out numerous corporate social responsibility activities and works to promote development of the pharmaceutical industry in Vietnam together with the MoH.

By Thuy Hao

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