The Novartis Malaria Initiative focuses on improving access to treatment, helping communities in malaria-endemic countries deliver better healthcare and investing in research and development into the next generation of antimalarials. Over the past decade, the initiative has become one of the largest access-to-medicine programs in the healthcare industry, measured by the number of patients reached annually.
In 1999, Novartis launched Coartem®, the first fixed-dose artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) antimalarial, prequalified by the WHO for its efficacy, safety and quality (and on the WHO’s Model List of Essential Medicines). Coartem® has a cure rate of over 95% of patients after a 3-day treatment course and a demonstrated safety profile. Coartem® combines artemether, a derivative of artemisinin (from the Chinese medicinal plant Artemisia annua), with a synthetic substance, lumefantrine, which has never been used as a monotherapy reducing the risk of resistance against the treatment compared to other ACTs. In 2010, Novartis was awarded the Prix Galien USA in the category of “Best Pharmaceutical Agent” for Coartem®.
In 2009, Novartis and Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) introduced Coartem® Dispersible, the first ACT formulation specifically developed to address the treatment needs of millions of children with malaria. Although children are the most vulnerable to malaria, there was until then no treatment adapted for this patient group. Prior to this innovative pediatric medicine, health workers and parents had to crush bitter-tasting antimalarial tablets for children to swallow.
Education being a key factor in malaria control, the Novartis Malaria Initiative developed a program to train healthcare workers and the communities they serve. This includes materials and courses for healthcare workers and mothers/caregivers – translated into several languages and distributed free of charge.