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Glivec For All Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia Patients

Glivec Now Funded For All Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia Patients

Novartis New Zealand is pleased to announce that its drug Glivec® (imatinib) will be fully funded as a first line treatment for newly diagnosed chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML) patients from 1 March 2003.

Since December Glivec has been funded in New Zealand for the treatment of CML only after conventional treatment with interferon had failed and for patients in the more advanced stages of the disease, known as accelerated phase and blast crisis.

Mr Andrew Moore, managing director of Novartis New Zealand, said Pharmac's decision to now fund Glivec in the early, so-called "chronic" phase of the disease recognises the outstanding benefits of the drug when it is administered to patients as early as possible after diagnosis.

"This decision will undoubtedly improve the chances of newly diagnosed patients of beating this debilitating disease and leading normal, productive lives," he said. "We applaud Pharmac's support of patients with this disease."

Mr Moore said that the latest clinical results show that patients taking Glivec first-line are nine times more likely to achieve a complete cytogenic response (74%) than those treated with the previous standard therapy, a combination of interferon-alpha and the chemotherapy agent cytosine arabinoside (8%). A cytogenic response is when cancer cells disappear from the bone marrow where they are produced. Even in later stages of the disease Glivec is considerably more effective than interferon therapy.

Currently 94 people with CML are funded for Glivec in New Zealand. From 1 March it is estimated a further 50 patients who could benefit from first-line treatment with Glivec will be eligible for funding.

Glivec, a signal transduction inhibitor, is one of the first cancer drugs to be developed using rational drug design, based on an understanding of how some cancer cells work. It was also approved for the treatment of unresectable and/or metastatic gastrointestinal stromal tumours (GISTs) - a rare stomach cancer - in New Zealand in July and received funding for this indication in December.

About Novartis

Novartis AG is a world leader in pharmaceuticals and consumer health. In 2001, the Group's businesses achieved sales of CHF 32.0 billion (USD 19.1 billion) and a net income of CHF 7.0 billion (USD 4.2 billion). The Group invested approximately CHF 4.2 billion (USD 2.5 billion) in R&D. Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Novartis Group companies employ about 74, 000 people and operate in more than 140 countries around the world. For further information please consult http://www.novartis.com

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