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Leprosy Target Reached

The World Health Organisation (WHO) announced this month that it has reached its overall target, set ten years ago, for the global ‘elimination’ of leprosy. Over 11 million patients have been cured in the past 15 years, and the number of cases throughput the world has decreased by 90%.

In a partnership with pharmaceutical company Novartis, the WHO has been able to guarantee patients’ access to high quality drugs. Novartis designed and tested two of the three drugs that are used in multi-drug therapy (MDT) used to treat leprosy. The combination of drugs is highly effective and stops the transmission of the disease, starting with the first dose. Treatment lasts for 6-12 months depending on the severity of the disease.

The majority of leprosy cases reported are in India, with full control of the disease eluding five other countries – Brazil, Madagascar, Mozambique, Myanmar and Nepal. Novartis, and the WHO, in conjunction with health services in these countries have committed to implementing programmes to reduce numbers in these areas.

Novartis has also committed to donating MDT, through the WHO to the end of 2005, which will cure between 2.5 and 2.8 million patients. The commitment will guarantee access to high quality drugs for all patients during this time.
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