The agreement provides multi-drug therapy (MDT), donated by Novartis AG and
made available by the World Health Organization (WHO),
to all leprosy endemic countries and is worth between 14.5 and 24.5 million
over the next five years depending on the number of cases detected. The first
phase of the programme from 2000 to 2005 was worth US 40 million,
The lower amount of drugs supplied under the new agreement is due, said WHO,
to the impressive progress being made in the struggle to eliminate the
potentially devastating but easily curable disease through the success of MDT
and the integration of leprosy treatment into general health systems.
The excellent news is that millions of people have been cured of leprosy
and saved from a life of disability and stigma through the use of this simple,
effective treatment, said WHO Director-General Dr. Lee Jong-wook. "This
success story demonstrates once again the value of integrating leprosy services
into the public health system, and making MDT treatment truly available to
everyone. WHO will work closely with all member states to sustain this process
of integration, and maintain the crucial political commitment required, in the
face of a rapidly disappearing disease."
More than 14 million patients have been cured of leprosy since 1985, WHO
said. As of the beginning of 2005, the number of cases of leprosy worldwide was
286,000, a drop of 38 per cent from the beginning of 2004. The number of new
cases detected during 2004 was also substantially lower (down 21 per cent) than
in the previous year, providing further evidence that the backlog of previously
undetected cases has finally been reached and treated.
Much of the credit for the progress rests with committed governments, and the
staff of international and national programmes, said Dr. Daniel Vasella,
Chairman and CEO of Novartis. The progress made to date in this partnership
is evidence of the benefits of this public-private partnership, and gives us
motivation in our fight against other endemic diseases in the developing
In a WHO statement release today, Mr Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of the Nippon
Foundation and WHO Goodwill Ambassador for the Elimination of Leprosy, called
for renewed cooperation between all concerned stakeholders.
The elimination of leprosy as a public health problem is a milestone along
the way to fundamentally eradicating both the disease and the social stigma that
for so long has accompanied it, he said.
Leprosy is a chronic disease caused by a bacterium, Mycobacterium leprae. It
is not highly infectious but can cause severe and permanent damage to the skin,
nerves, limbs and eyes if untreated. Treatment is simple, effective and free in
all countries. It remains a public health problem in nine countries: six in
Africa (Angola, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo,
Madagascar, Mozambique, and the United Republic of Tanzania) two in South-East
Asia (India, Nepal), and one in the Americas (Brazil).