Novartis teams with advocacy group to bring visibility to atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease

Novartis' "Invisible Nation" program hopes to lower the human and monetary cost of the 15 million atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease deaths each year. (Novartis)

Novartis and cardiovascular disease patient advocacy group, Global Heart Hub, have joined forces to make the dangers atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) more visible through the “Invisible Nation” initiative.

The program is called “The Invisible Nation,” because despite heart disease being billed as “the world’s No. 1 killer” and ASCVD accounting for 85% of cardiovascular-related deaths, ASCVD itself remains largely unknown. Buried under the umbrella of “cardiovascular disease,” ASCVD is itself another umbrella term describing a mix of cardiovascular diseases caused by plaque buildup that blocks arteries and can lead to heart attacks and stroke.

The lack of knowledge of ASCVD is so prevalent that Neil Johnson, executive director of the Global Heart Hub, says even patients with the disease often have no idea what it is.

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So, the first step of the project is to get patients talking within the community. Part of this information comes in digital assets provided by the program, like a video and social media including Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

From there Johnson wants to send this information out to the general public, and, finally, the ultimate goal is to get patients talking to HCPs and clinicians and move the discussion up to “policymaker level, politician level, change maker level, because what is required here is serious systemic change in terms of how we look at ASCVD and how we introduce strategies around prevention and early detection.”

About 40% of adults are at risk of ASCVD, and most are unaware of that risk until a heart attack or stroke. While many ASCVD-related deaths are preventable, most countries are not on track to line up with the World Health Organization's 2025 goal to reduce CV mortality by 25%. In addition to the human cost, it’s estimated that the financial toll will soon be $1 trillion annually.

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“Ultimately, we want to get to the point where ASCVD is right up there on the on the public health agenda, and governments are introducing innovative strategies and policies to reduce the burden of this disease," Johnson noted. "And we see that as involving very clear strategies around prevention and early detection."

Novartis, for its part, has a therapy for ASCVD, though it's not yet available in the U.S. Leqvio, also known as inclisiran, was acquired when the pharma bought The Medicines Company back in November 2019 for $9.7 billion. The drug was given a go-ahead in Europe in late 2020, and ASCVD is among the indications it was approved for.

The FDA initially rejected the drug, reportedly because pandemic-related travel restrictions kept the agency from conducting the needed inspection at a third-party site. Novartis has since refiled for FDA approval, hoping to sidestep the FDA's concerns by bringing production in-house to a facility in Schaftenau, Austria.

EvaluatePharma analysts predict sales of $2 billion by 2026.