Novartis To Sell Covid-19 Drugs At Zero-Profit To Low-Income Countries

Novartis AG (NVS) announced Thursday that its Sandoz division will sell 15 generic drugs to treat COVID-19 symptoms at zero-profit to governments in low-and lower-middle income countries until a vaccine or curative treatment is available.

The Novartis COVID-19 portfolio includes 15 medicines from its Sandoz division for gastro-intestinal illness, acute respiratory symptoms, pneumonia as well as septic shock.

The Swiss drugmaker said that the medicines will be made available to governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other institutional customers in up to 79 eligible countries to support financially-strained healthcare systems. Countries will have the flexibility to select the medicines in the portfolio that meet their healthcare needs.

“Access to medicine can be a challenge for patients in low- and lower-middle-income countries and the situation has worsened during COVID-19,” said Lutz Hegemann, Novartis COO for Global Health. “This initiative builds on our earlier global commitment to keep prices stable for a basket of essential drugs used to treating COVID-19 patients.”

Back in May, AveXis, Novartis’ gene therapy unit, entered into a manufacturing agreement with Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Massachusetts General Hospital to produce its novel genetic COVID-19 vaccine candidate called AAVCOVID.

Novartis shares rose less than 1% to $87.87 in U.S. trading on Wednesday. Citigroup analyst Andrew Baum last month upgraded Novartis to Buy from Hold with a $108.97 price target (24% upside potential), saying that shares are attractively valued.

Baum adds that Novartis’ drivers are undervalued and he expects the company will expand its cardiovascular franchise post COVID-19. Furthermore, the analyst believes that the market is underestimating its backlog of product launches in China.

Shares have now recouped some of their losses from earlier this year but they are still down more than 7% year-to-date. (See Novartis stock analysis on TipRanks)

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