Novartis' 2021 access goal: solutions as 'innovative as the science itself'

Novartis has a busy year ahead with drug launches and pre-launch prep for late-stage pipeline products, but at the same time, the company is making an effort to think differently about improving patient access to its existing medicines, an exec said.

Among its 2021 priorities, the company is examining how to “bring our science to patients in a way that is equally innovative as the science itself," Novartis pharmaceuticals president Marie-France Tschudin said in an interview last month. In the company's treatment areas, only 10% of patients have access to new medicines five years after launch, even in developed countries, Tschudin said. It’s “taking way too long” for patients to get access, she said, noting that the pandemic will likely exacerbate the issue. 

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With that in mind, Novartis is setting out to “change the way that we are interacting with not only physicians, but healthcare systems, and how we think about the patient journey," Tschudin said.

Diagnosis is one piece of the puzzle, she said, noting that some patients take years to reach an accurate diagnosis. The company wants to help cut down that timeline so they arrive at the appropriate treatment sooner.

With healthcare systems, Novartis is looking at partnerships—such as population-level health measures—to address the access issue. Early last year, the drugmaker unveiled a deal with NHS England to make cholesterol-lowering med Leqvio widely available for high-risk patients upon approval and with a sign-off from cost watchdogs. 

And with healthcare professionals, the company aims to personalize its interactions and deliver “what they need in real time” to support their decision-making process. 

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Aside from its focus on boosting access, the company is looking to “step up” and invest to grow its presence in the U.S. and China this year, Tschudin said.

Within its portfolio, the drugmaker still sees “a lot of runway” for blockbusters Cosentyx and Entresto and is dedicating resources to rollouts for new meds Beovu, Kesimpta and Leqvio. Novartis further has four medicines—ligelizumab, iscalimab, iptacopan, pelacarsen—in its “prelaunch portfolio," and it could launch 15 blockbusters by 2024, she said.