Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis has launched a not-for-profit medicines portfolio to help treat Covid-19 symptoms in patients in low-income and lower-middle-income countries.

As the disease currently lacks vaccine or curative treatment, the company aims to offer affordable drugs to address the major symptoms. Covid-19 patients are known to experience inflammation and respiratory problems that can result in severe complications and even death.

The Covid-19 portfolio by Novartis includes 15 medicines from its Sandoz unit for treating gastro-intestinal illness, acute respiratory symptoms, pneumonia and septic shock.

Some of the medicines in the portfolio are Amoxicillin, Colchicine, Heparin, Dexamethasone, Pantoprazole and Salbutamol.

According to Novartis, the drugs were selected based on their clinical relevance and availability in order to meet global demand.

Novartis Global Health chief operating officer Dr Lutz Hegemann said: “Access to medicine can be a challenge for patients in low- and lower-middle-income countries and the situation has worsened during Covid-19.

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“With our Covid-19 portfolio, we wish to help address the additional healthcare demands of the pandemic in the countries we are targeting.”

Governments, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and other institutional customers in up to 79 eligible countries will be able to access these medicines.

Countries can choose medicines in the portfolio based on their healthcare needs.

Sandoz CEO Richard Saynor said: “This initiative builds on our earlier global commitment to keep prices stable for a basket of essential drugs used to treating Covid-19 patients.

“The Covid-19 Response Portfolio for low-income and lower-middle-income countries is designed to support governments in treating Covid-19 symptoms before they lead to complications in patients.”

The Novartis Covid-19 portfolio will be available along with the Novartis Access portfolio of medicines for non-communicable diseases through the local Novartis or Sandoz affiliate.

In May, Novartis unit AveXis entered a manufacturing agreement with researchers at Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Massachusetts General Hospital in the US to produce a genetic vaccine against Covid-19, AAVCOVID.