Novartis has entered a new collaboration with The Max Foundation to support continued access to treatment free of charge for almost 34,000 patients suffering from chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML), gastrointestinal tumours (GIST) and other rare cancers.

The two entities have long been collaborating on providing access to care for patients in lower-income countries through the Glivec International Patient Assistance Program (GIPAP).

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Known as CMLPath to Care, this collaboration is considered to be an evolution from GIPAP, a partnership that offered Glivec (imatinib) free of charge to patients diagnosed with CML, GIST and other rare cancers in lower-income countries where there may not be access for reimbursement or funding mechanisms, and to those who cannot afford to pay for the medication.

Under the initiative, Novartis will offer funding and drug donation support while patient-focused, non-governmental organisation (NGO) The Max Foundation will assume the responsibility from Novartis for delivering the treatment to these patients, including supply chain management. 

The agreement will run through the first quarter of 2021 and comes with an option for extension. During this period, Novartis intends to donate more than $29m to the collaboration, along with around 315 million doses of medicine.

GIPAP was launched by Novartis in 2002 after recognising the impact of its cancer therapy, Glivec. Since its inception, the programme has served the CML treatment needs of around 75,000 people.

Novartis oncology CEO Bruno Strigini said: "Fifteen years ago, Novartis recognised the critical importance of ensuring patients in lower-income countries had access to breakthrough cancer therapy, and we partnered with The Max Foundation to develop a revolutionary global programme to address this need.

"CMLPath to Care renews and extends our unique collaboration with The Max Foundation and builds on the strengths of both organisations to better serve these patients."

"CMLPath to Care renews and extends our unique collaboration with The Max Foundation and builds on the strengths of both organisations to better serve these patients."

The Max Foundation CEO Pat Garcia-Gonzalez said: "Since our founding 20 years ago, The Max Foundation has grown extensively in its efforts and ability to help people face cancer with dignity and hope.

"We are proud of the thousands of patients' lives touched by our long-standing collaboration with Novartis and are pleased with our shared continued innovation, commitment and support for underserved patients with CML and other rare cancers in low-resource countries."

Through CMLPath to Care, Novartis will offer access to Glivec in nearly 70 countries. Second-line Tasigna (nilotinib) therapy will be available for approved indications in a subset of countries.

The Max Foundation, on the other hand, will be responsible for managing the complete medicine supply chain and interactions with local stakeholders under the umbrella of Max Access Solutions, as well as providing hands-on, local patient support.

Glivec (imatinib) has secured approval in more than 110 countries. It is intended to treat adult patients in all phases of Philadelphia chromosome-positive (Ph+) CML; patients with KIT (CD117)-positive GIST, which cannot be surgically removed and / or have metastasized; as well as adult patients following complete surgical removal of KIT+ GIST.