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NOVARTIS

Novartis sales dip on expired patent

Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis said on Sunday the expiry of a US patent for its leading hypertension drug Diovan caused a drop in turnover that could last into the first half of 2013.

Novartis sales dip on expired patent
Photo: Andrew Hecht

The fall in sales of the company's best-selling drug was "significant" in the United States since the end of September, when the patent ended, Novartis chief executive Joseph Jimenez told Swiss weekly SonntagsZeitung.

Sales of competing generic equivalents to the Novartis drug already caused a $2-billion drop in demand for Diovan, which registered sales of $6 billion in a single year, the report added.

Rejecting the need for a fresh swathe of layoffs to counter the expected downturn in the next three quarters, Jimenez said he planned to pursue a series of smaller measures instead.

The Basel-based company already cut 2,000 positions in late 2011, mainly in Switzerland and the US, and announced in January 2012 it was further downsizing its American operation by shedding another 1,630 positions.

Jimenez also said in the interview that the group had reviewed its range of products and expected a major rise in sales in the second half of 2013.

The patent for Diovan expired in Europe at the end of last year for Novartis, which employs around 100,000 people worldwide, according to its website.

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NOVARTIS

Switzerland’s Novartis to help make Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccine

Swiss pharmaceuticals giant Novartis said Friday it had signed an initial agreement to help produce the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against Covid-19, as countries scramble to boost supplies.

Switzerland's Novartis to help make Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccine
Novartis will help manufacture Pfizer vaccine. Photo by AFP.

The rare act of cooperation — in an industry usually marked by cut-throat competition — comes after French pharma group Sanofi announced earlier this week that it would also team up with rivals Pfizer and BioNTech to help produce 125 million doses of their jab.

The two-dose vaccine, which is based on mRNA technology, has been shown to be around 95 percent effective and has been approved for use by the World Health Organization and in some 50 countries.

But it is in limited supply as nations around the world race to immunise their populations against the coronavirus, which has killed nearly 2.2 million people in just over a year.

Novartis said in a statement that it would use its sterilised manufacturing facilities at its site in Stein, Switzerland to help produce the Pfizer-BioNTech jabs.

Under the agreement, the company said it would “take bulk mRNA active ingredient from BioNTech and fill this into vials under aseptic conditions for shipment back to BioNTech for their distribution to healthcare system customers around the world”.

Once a final agreement is reached, Novartis said it expected to begin production in the second quarter of the year, with initial shipment of finished product expected in the third quarter.

Steffen Lang, Head of Novartis Technical Operations, stressed that the company was “committed to leverage our manufacturing capabilities to help support the supply of COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics around the world”.

“We expect this to be the first of a number of such agreements,” he said in the statement.

Novartis said it was already in “advanced discussions” with a number of other companies about with other production tasks, including of mRNA, therapeutic protein and raw material production for Covid vaccines and therapeutics. 

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