Novartis Foundation and Netherlands Leprosy Relief launch project to reduce leprosy

11 June 2014

The Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development and Netherlands Leprosy Relief (NLR) are launching a project with national leprosy programs and other leprosy organisations to reduce the spread of leprosy worldwide.

In pilot sites in 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 the 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, neighbours 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."

Further information

Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development and experts publish editorial on new leprosy strategy
See the announcement on the Foundation website >>

Netherlands Leprosy Relief (NLR)

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

The Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development is a nonprofit organization whose activities form part of the Corporate Responsibility portfolio of Novartis AG. The Foundation 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

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.


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