Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development to work with Netherlands Leprosy Relief to help reduce leprosy transmission
Collaboration to provide evidence on the impact of preventatively treating high risk groups to reduce the transmission of leprosy in several countries across Asia, Africa and Latin America
Research shows that a single preventative dose of antibiotic rifampicin can reduce the risk of developing leprosy by 50 to 60% among contacts of leprosy patients
The Novartis Foundation has been active in the fight against leprosy for over 25 years, exploring innovative interventions to bring the world closer to the eventual goal of leprosy elimination
Netherlands Leprosy Relief (NLR) has been combating leprosy for almost 50 years and aims to bring leprosy under control worldwide by facilitating early detection, treatment, prevention of disabilities and rehabilitation.
Basel, June 10, 2014 - The Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development and Netherlands Leprosy Relief (NLR) today announced their collaboration with national leprosy programs and other International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations (ILEP) partners to interrupt transmission of leprosy. In pilot sites of several countries across Asia, Africa and Latin America, the collaboration aims at introducing leprosy post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) for contact persons of newly diagnosed patients to decrease their risk of developing leprosy.
Called Leprosy Post-Exposure-Prophylaxis (LPEP) project, the collaboration aims at providing critical evidence on the impact of PEP on case detection rates and at demonstrating the feasibility, acceptability and cost implications of chemoprophylaxis for contact persons of newly diagnosed patients, as a strategy to interrupt leprosy transmission.
"To further reduce the number of newly diagnosed leprosy patients, we need to consider every new patient as a unique event," says Ann Aerts, Head of the Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development. "By using a more proactive, targeted approach of examining the contacts of each newly diagnosed leprosy patient and offering a preventative treatment, we can hope to reduce transmission of leprosy."
Preventative treatment of contacts of newly diagnosed leprosy patients is part of a new leprosy strategy announced late last year by the Novartis Foundation. The strategy aims at finally ending the disease worldwide by shifting the focus to the interruption of disease transmission. The way toward reducing leprosy transmission, as defined by a group of leading experts, is through early diagnosis and prompt treatment of all patients, tracing and PEP for contact persons of newly diagnosed leprosy patients, the development of new diagnostic tools, as well as strict epidemiological surveillance and response systems to monitor progress.
Research conducted by the Erasmus MC, University Medical Center Rotterdam in the Netherlands shows that a single dose of PEP can reduce the risk for contact persons of newly diagnosed leprosy patients to develop the disease, by 50 to 60% in the following two years.
"We have seen through our work in the Sampang District in Indonesia that chemoprophylaxis to protect relatives, neighbors and classmates of new leprosy patients is a feasible and acceptable intervention," says Jan van Berkel, Director of NLR. "Now we are eager to work with the Novartis Foundation to apply this breakthrough method in as many countries as possible."
NLR has been combating leprosy for almost 50 years. The organization works together with 15 national leprosy programs in Africa, Asia and South America and promotes local ownership of leprosy control by encouraging national and local partners to provide the staff and resources needed.
The Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development has been active in the fight against leprosy for over 25 years. Besides implementing the new strategy toward zero transmission of leprosy, the foundation also facilitates the Novartis multidrug therapy (MDT) donation, which has helped to treat over 5 million leprosy patients since 2000. The Novartis Foundation convenes leprosy and disease elimination experts and stakeholders at key events, striving to bring new momentum in the last mile in leprosy elimination.
The LPEP project is being launched with an inception workshop from June 10 to 12, 2014 in Surabaya, Indonesia. National program managers from several leprosy endemic countries are joining this workshop to establish the LPEP roadmap and implementation plans for individual countries.
About the Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development The Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development is a nonprofit organization whose activities form part of the Corporate Responsibility portfolio of Novartis AG. The Novartis Foundation works to create sustainable health service models and improve access to healthcare for those most in need, leveraging its on-the-ground experience and partnerships to bring private sector solutions to public health problems. The foundation also explores innovative interventions to bring the world closer to the eventual goal of leprosy and malaria elimination. For more information, please visit: www.novartisfoundation.org; www.youtube.com/novartisfoundation
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References  Moet FJ, Pahan D, Oskam L, Richardus JH. Effectiveness of single dose rifampicin in preventing leprosy in close contacts of patients with newly diagnosed leprosy: cluster randomised controlled trial. BMJ, 2008; 336: 761-764.
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