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Kenya among countries to get affordable drugs to treat Covid-19 virus symptoms

By Rebecca Mutiso
Tuesday, July 28th, 2020
Racey Muchilwa
Novartis Sub Saharan Head, Racey Muchilwa says the pharmaceutical firm has set aside millions to help developing countries get access to treat Covid-19 virus symptoms. PHOTO | COURTESY

Kenyan is among developing countries set to get access to affordable drugs from pharmaceutical firm, Novartis, to treat major symptoms of Covid-19 virus.

The portfolio of 15 generic and over-the-counter drugs will be used to treat inflammation and respiratory problems linked to Covid-19, given the fact that there is still no vaccine or curative treatment available to cure the disease.

Novartis Sub Saharan Head, Racey Muchilwa said the drugs, which are under the firm’s Pandemic Response Portfolio, will ease the demands Covid-19 pandemic has put on the healthcare systems of low-income and lower-middle-income countries such as Kenya.

“Our current knowledge is that fatal cases of COVID-19 are mostly linked to advanced age and underlying conditions such as poorly-controlled high blood pressure, asthma, and diabetes. Patients should continue to take their medications as prescribed by their treating doctors and should follow local guidelines on avoiding infection, but if exposure has happened, they should prevent passing it on and should seek treatment from a healthcare provider. We advise a Covid-19 test to be done so that the right medicine can be selected by the healthcare provider,” she said in a statement.

Muchilwa said the medicines will be made available to health authorities, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and pharmacies to ensure they reach patients in need.

“The drugs will be sold at zero-profit to governments in up to 79 eligible countries during the pandemic and until a vaccine or curative treatment is available. We will also work with Faith-Based Organisations (FBOs) and other central government procurement bodies,” she said.

The firm intends to work with the Ministry of Health, which has been partnering with them since 2015 on the Novartis Access Programme.

Under the programme Kenya has been getting a supply of drugs including Amoxicillin to treat pneumonia in children.

“We have not yet received requests for the Pandemic Response Portfolio but we shall actively engage the Ministry of Health in the coming days,” she said.

Novartis has set aside Sh4.3 billion (US$40 million) to support communities across the globe that have been affected by the pandemic.

In the Sub-Sahara Africa region, it has provided Sh215 million (US$2 million) to support efforts aimed at tackling the pandemic.

The Novartis COVID-19 portfolio includes 15 medicines from its Sandoz division for gastro-intestinal illness, acute respiratory symptoms, pneumonia as well as septic shock. The medicines were chosen based on clinical relevance and availability to ensure demand can be met globally.

In addition, Novartis has been active in two research initiatives- the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator, coordinated by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Wellcome, and Mastercard, as well as a COVID-19 directed partnership organized by the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI).  The firm also manufacture hydroxychloroquine, a drug that has been undergoing several Covid-19 trials.

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