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NOVARTIS

Novartis drug ‘too costly’, UK officials say

British health authorities said on Wednesday they would not recommend Jakavi, a drug produced by Basel-based pharmaceutical company Novartis to treat a rare form of blood cancer, deeming it too expensive.

Novartis drug 'too costly', UK officials say
Photo: Andrew Hecht

Jakavi, or Ruxolitinib, was "clinically effective but could not be considered a cost-effective use of (the National Health Services') resources," the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) said in a statement.

The drug is used to treat myelofibrosis, a rare type of blood cancer or chronic leukemia.

While NICE concluded that Ruxolitinib effectively treated symptoms and "could offer survival benefit," it lamented that it was simply too expensive to impose on the public health system, since it would mean diverting costs from elsewhere.

"It is disappointing not to be able to recommend this new treatment in our preliminary recommendations," it said.

Novartis, which is facing a wave of expiring patents on its traditional big-sellers, is working hard to multiply its new drug offerings like Javaki to ensure continued growth.

But like the rest of the pharmaceutical industry, the company has also had to deal with growing pricing pressure at a time when crisis-hit countries are increasingly being forced to slash health expenditures.

Last month it announced that its net sales in 2012 had slipped three percent year-on-year to $56.7 billion.

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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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