DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania, February 16 /PRNewswire/ --

- Regional events planned this week in Dar es Salaam, Dakar, and Maputo

- Builds on success of Coartem(R), Novartis' most-widely distributed medicine with more than 215 million treatments provided without profit

- Sweet-tasting and easy-to-administer, Coartem(R) Dispersible offers cure rates of more than 97% for uncomplicated childhood malaria cases

- Coartem(R) Dispersible is the result of a unique public-private collaboration between Novartis and the nonprofit Medicines for Malaria Venture

Novartis and Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) announced today the African launch of Coartem(R) Dispersible. Coartem(R) Dispersible is the result of a unique public-private collaboration between Novartis and the nonprofit Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV). The announcement was made today in Dar es Salaam at the start of a week-long pan-African introduction of Coartem(R) Dispersible, which includes regional events in Mozambique and Senegal.

Each year there are nearly one million malaria-related deaths reported around the world(1). Nine out of ten malaria deaths occur in sub Saharan Africa, and the vast majority of malaria-related deaths occur in children. Across Africa, a child dies every 30 seconds from malaria(2).

Until now, many healthcare workers and parents have had to crush bitter-tasting antimalarial tablets for their children to swallow. Coartem Dispersible tablets enable parents to give the sweet-tasting malaria medicine to their children more easily and, in the process, ensure they receive full effective doses.

This new Coartem Dispersible tablet can help improve treatment and compliance saving many of the more than 700,000 children under five who die each year from malaria, said Dr. Daniel Vasella, chairman and CEO of Novartis. I am pleased that we can provide a clearly better formulation to help ensure children with malaria receive and can take an effective therapy.

A clinical study reported in The Lancet by Dr Salim Abdulla of the Ifakara Health Institute in Tanzania showed that Coartem Dispersible provides a high cure rate of 97.8%, which is comparable to that of Coartem (98.5%). Investigators also reported that it had a good safety profile(3).

The launch of Coartem Dispersible is an important milestone in the fight against malaria and marks the culmination of several years of successful collaboration with Novartis, said Dr. Chris Hentschel, President and CEO of Medicines for Malaria Venture. This could not have happened without the support of our funders who are all committed to malaria innovation and one day, eliminating this deadly disease.

The launch of Coartem Dispersible is a week-long series of regional events throughout Africa, focusing on malaria treatment, prevention and eradication. Coartem Dispersible events are taking place in Dar es Salaam on 16 February, Maputo on 19 February, and in Dakar on 20 February.

Coartem Dispersible builds on the enormous success of Coartem (artemether/lumefantrine 20 mg/120 mg), the leading ACT in Africa. Since 2001, in a unique collaboration with international organizations, Novartis has provided more than 215 million Coartem treatment courses for public sector use in malaria-endemic developing countries without profit. Thanks to production efficiency gains and increasing demand for Coartem, Novartis has driven down the cost in order to make it more accessible to people with malaria. After nearly halving the price since launch, the average cost of a full treatment course is 0.80 USD. For the youngest patients, a full treatment course costs just 0.37 USD through public sector sources.

As part of its ongoing commitment to patients and health workers, Novartis and MMV also provide malaria case management educational programs, which include hands-on training for local healthcare workers, customized training manuals, and user-friendly packaging to ensure that Coartem Dispersible is properly used and to improve patient compliance. Like Coartem, Coartem Dispersible will be provided to the public sector without profit to benefit those people most in need in the developing world.

In addition to Swissmedic, Coartem Dispersible is approved by 17 regulatory authorities in Africa. These countries include Benin, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania, Togo, and Zambia.

Disclaimer

The foregoing release contains forward-looking statements that can be identified by terminology such as can, may, will, improve or similar expressions, or by express or implied discussions regarding potential additional marketing approvals for Coartem or Coartem Dispersible, or regarding potential future revenues from Coartem products. You should not place undue reliance on these statements. Such forward-looking statements reflect the current views of the Company regarding future events, and involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause actual results with Coartem to be materially different from any future results, performance or achievements expressed or implied by such statements. There can be no guarantee that Coartem or Coartem Dispersible will be approved for sale in any additional market. Nor can there be any guarantee that Coartem products will achieve any particular levels of revenue in the future. In particular, management's expectations regarding Coartem products could be affected by, among other things, unexpected regulatory actions or delays or government regulation generally; unexpected clinical trial results, including unexpected new clinical data and unexpected additional analysis of existing clinical data; the company's ability to obtain or maintain patent or other proprietary intellectual property protection; competition in general; government, industry and general public pricing pressures; the impact that the foregoing factors could have on the values attributed to the Novartis Group's assets and liabilities as recorded in the Group's consolidated balance sheet, and other risks and factors referred to in Novartis AG's current Form 20-F on file with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. Should one or more of these risks or uncertainties materialize, or should underlying assumptions prove incorrect, actual results may vary materially from those anticipated, believed, estimated or expected. Novartis is providing the information in this press release as of this date and does not undertake any obligation to update any forward-looking statements contained in this press release as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.

About Novartis

Novartis AG provides healthcare solutions that address the evolving needs of patients and societies. Focused solely on healthcare, Novartis offers a diversified portfolio to best meet these needs: innovative medicines, cost-saving generic pharmaceuticals, preventive vaccines, diagnostic tools and consumer health products. Novartis is the only company with leading positions in these areas. In 2007, the Group's continuing operations (excluding divestments in 2007) achieved net sales of USD 38.1 billion and net income of USD 6.5 billion. Approximately USD 6.4 billion was invested in RD activities throughout the Group. Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Novartis Group companies employ approximately 97,000 full-time associates and operate in over 140 countries around the world. For more information, please visit http://www.novartis.com.

Novartis was named a Super Sector Leader by the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) in 2007. In the same year, 66 million patients around the world benefited from Novartis programs valued at USD 937 million. These initiatives range from drug donation and research programs to combat neglected diseases like malaria, tuberculosis and leprosy in developing nations, to patient assistance programs that help cancer patients receive the most innovative and effective treatments available. For further information, please consult http://www.novartis.com.

About Medicines For Malaria Ventures

Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) is a non-profit organization created to discover, develop and deliver effective and affordable antimalarial drugs through public-private partnerships. To support this project and the largest malaria RD pipeline in history, MMV receives funding from BHP Billiton, the Bill Melinda Gates Foundation, Exxon Mobil Foundation, Irish Aid, Netherlands Minister Development Co-Operation, Rockefeller Foundation, Spanish Government, Swiss Government, UK DFID, USAID, US National Institute of Health, Wellcome Trust, WHO/RBM and World Bank.

MMV is currently managing the largest-ever portfolio of antimalarial projects in collaboration with over 100 pharmaceutical, academic, and endemic-country partners in 38 countries. The portfolio includes 19 completely new classes of compounds. New and improved treatment solutions are urgently needed for the 2.4 billion people at risk from malaria. MMV is working to ensure that its products will have the greatest possible public health impact and, most importantly, save lives. For more information, please consult http://www.mmv.org.

*Artemisinin-based combination therapy

References

1 Children and Malaria. World Health Organization Roll Back Malaria Web site. Available at : http://www.rbm.who.int/cmc_upload/0/000/015/367/RBMInfosheet_6.pdf.

2 Malaria Fact Sheet. World Health Organization Web site. Available at : http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheet/fs094/en/.

3 Salim et al, Efficacy and safety of artemether-lumefantrine dispersible tablet in African infants and children with uncomplicated malaria: a randomised, investigator-blinded, multi-centre comparison with the crushed commercial tablet; The Lancet (2008) www.thelancet.com; published online October 15, 2008 DOI:10.1016/S0140-6736(08)61492-0

Novartis Media Relations Peter Shelby Novartis Pharma Communications +41-61-324-4470 (direct) +41-79-597-6353 (mobile) peter.shelby@novartis.com

Peter Shelby, Novartis Pharma Communications, +41-61-324-4470, mobile, +41-79-597-6353, peter.shelby@novartis.com