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AMSP will reduce prices of Covid-19 related medicines in Africa’

Global Head, Corporate Responsibility for Novartis, Patrice Matchaba, explains how the AMSP initiative will improve access and reduce prices of Covid-19 related medicines in Nigeria and Africa in this interview with Taiwo Alimi.


What is the collaboration between your company and the Africa Union on AMSP all about?

This global pandemic has placed extreme pressure on healthcare systems in low- and lower-income countries. Following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and its spread worldwide, there was a shortage of diagnostics, medical supplies, and essential medical equipment such as personal protective equipment for healthcare workers, face masks, ventilators, and many others.

The AMSP was developed as a direct response to these challenges under the leadership of African Union Special Envoy, Strive Masiyiwa and powered by Janngo on behalf of the African Union’s Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), and in partnership with African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).

This collaboration between Novartis and the Africa Medical Supply Platform will help alleviate supply and logistical constraints in Africa and Caricom countries, by facilitating the supply of medicines from the Novartis Pandemic Response Portfolio.

AMSP is said to be an online platform of supply and marketing, how does that work?

AMSP is an online marketplace that aggregates critical COVID-19 related supplies where governments and hospitals from 55 African Union Member States and 15 Caricom countries can place their orders.

The platform further consolidates vetted and certified manufacturers from Africa, Asia, Europe, and America and provides the interface between these vendors and end-users, such as governments and hospitals, to ensure rapid accessibility, transparency, and cost-effectiveness.

What are the supply and logistical constraints experienced before the AMSP initiative?

Many African governments had severe challenges with the procurement of essential supplies to support their response activities and face stiff competition, lack of access, prohibitive pricing, and delivery delays.

The online platform now integrates leading African and globally vetted medical suppliers to ensure cost-effectiveness, transparency, and speed of delivery in the procurement and distribution of COVID-19 related supplies.

How is Nigeria, South Africa, and other countries in Africa reacting to this model initiative?

Following a successful launch of the Africa Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP) by the Chairperson of the African Union, His Excellency, the President of the Republic of South Africa, Cyril Matamela Ramaphosa on the 18th of June 2020, the Africa Medical Supplies platform has experienced a surge in demand for medical supplies from the Member States of the African Union and has been adopted as a single online marketplace to enable the supply of COVID-19-related critical medical equipment in Africa.

The AMSP has also achieved international recognition with Member States of CARICOM (Caribbean Community and Common Market) joining the platform to access critical medical supplies to fight COVID.

Novartis has listed 15 medicines on its portfolio, help up to better appreciate these drugs, and how they mitigate COVID-19 related symptoms since there is no vaccine yet?

The COVID-19 medicines portfolio is Novartis’ latest contribution to the global effort to combat the pandemic and support the stability of global healthcare systems. It allows access to affordable medicines to treat the major symptoms of COVID-19 – a critical need in the absence of a vaccine or curative treatment. Inflammation and respiratory problems linked to COVID-19 can cause severe medical complications and can lead to death in some people, putting immense strain on fragile healthcare systems. The Novartis COVID-19 portfolio includes 15 medicines from its Sandoz division for gastrointestinal illness, acute respiratory symptoms, pneumonia as well as septic shock. The medications in the portfolio are aligned to palliative (symptomatic) care recommended in the World Health Organisation interim guidance on the clinical management of COVID-19.

Additionally, the portfolio includes Dexamethasone is the only medicine that has been shown so far to reduce deaths in severe COVID-19 Pneumonia patients in a randomized double-blind study. The medicines will be made available to governments, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), and other institutional customers in up to 79 low-income and lower-middle-income countries at zero-profit to support financially-strained healthcare systems. Countries will have the flexibility to select the medicines in the portfolio that meet their healthcare needs.

Do you think African leaders are doing enough to contain the virus? If not, what more can they do?

The pandemic has spurred an unprecedented level of collaboration across the pharmaceutical industry, with businesses using their collective innovation power and global footprint to end the pandemic as quickly as possible.

The AMSP is a first of its kind partnership between governments and private sector leaders to enable such an agile platform delivering emergency supplies in a matter of weeks. Imagine what is possible if we bring our collective power to address unmet medical needs for patients across Africa. Few problems are insurmountable when people resiliently stand together.


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