Novartis delivers Sh150 per month drugs for diabetes, cancer patients

Former Health secretary James Macharia (right) with Novartis board of directors chairman Joerg Reinhardt  at the launch of Novartis Access in Nairobi last October. PHOTO | GERALD ANDERSON
Former Health secretary James Macharia (right) with Novartis board of directors chairman Joerg Reinhardt at the launch of Novartis Access in Nairobi last October. PHOTO | GERALD ANDERSON 

Patients suffering from respiratory and non-communicable illnesses such as breast cancer, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes can now access the Sh150-per-month drugs by pharmaceutical company Novartis, which delivered the first shipment on Wednesday last week. 

The global pharmaceutical giant had in October announced the special offer for patients who cannot afford to buy drugs for respiratory and non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

“The roll-out of Novartis Access will be done county by county. Through this phased approach, we aim to build a steady supply of medicines for patients that are already on Novartis Access treatments as chronic diseases require long-term treatments,” said Health PS Nicholas Muraguri in an interview last week.

The initiative is being rolled out in partnership with the government, and will only benefit patients registered on the Novartis Access programme in the first phase.

The drugs in the first shipment include 1,000 Salbutamol packs for respiratory diseases, 400 packs of Tamoxifen for breast cancer and 4,000 packs of 5mg Amlodipine for heart failure and hypertension.

Others are 2,000 packs of 10mg Amlodipine for heart failure and hypertension, 1,500 of one gram Metformin for diabetes and 4,000 of 500mg Metformin 500 for diabetes.

Mr Muraguri said eight out of the 15 medicines in the Novartis Access portfolio have received marketing authorisation in the country.

The shipment is currently being stored in the Mission for Essential Drugs and Supplies (MEDS) stores in Nairobi, a faith-based, not-for-profit medical supply chain and capacity building organisation in Kenya.

Mr Muraguri said the initial shipment sets the beginning of a steady supply of Novartis Access medicines in the country.

“The programme supports our government’s efforts to expand access to prevention and treatment for people with cancer and other chronic diseases,” he said.

MEDS managing director Paschal Manyuru said the initiative offers much needed relief for many Kenyan families struggling to meet the high cost of managing diseases such as hypertension, breast cancer, diabetes and asthma. 

“The low-cost drugs will not only cushion those affected but also promote better management of the diseases,” said Mr Manyuru.

He said MEDS has already placed a follow-up order that is expected in the next few weeks.

Global Head of Novartis Access, Harald Nusser, said the integrity of the distribution chain should be checked for patients who need them to receive at the stipulated prices.

“The only medicine that counts is the one that reaches the patient,” said Dr Nusser.

Novartis is in talks with the Kenya Red Cross to have them distribute the drugs countrywide.

Dr Nusser said they are also in discussions with the Ministry of Health to make the Novartis Access portfolio available through the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority.

“This initial shipment is a first step toward implementing Novartis Access in Kenya. It will allow us to establish the supply chain for Novartis Access treatment in the country and should enable smooth deliveries in the future,” he said.