LAHORE - Norartis Pharma on Wednesday discontinued supply of free-of-cost medicines to patients of oncology citing reasons of not clearing outstanding dues by the government and lack of clarity regarding signing of fresh MoU under Punjab CML Project.

More than 5,000 patients of Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia (CML) and Gastro-intestinal Stromal Tumour (GST) were major beneficiary of the agreement signed by the Swiss firm with the Punjab government in 2014.

Provision of free medicines to cancer patients was earlier interrupted last year when the government refused to provide its share due to lack of third party audit. Frequent meetings of government high-ups with the Swiss firm, however, restored provision of medicines for the time being but only to abrupt ending on January 1, 2020.

According to the MoU, Novartis will bear 91 percent of the total expenses on procurement of the cancer medicines while the remaining nine percent will be paid by the Punjab government.

Initially, the agreement was signed for two years but later was extended for another term of three years.

Dr Abdul Hafeez Khan, Head of Integrated Accounts Management, Movartis Oncology Pakistan, informed Secretary Specialized Healthcare and Medical Education about the decision of discontinuing provision of free medicines to cancer patients.

“From 1st January 2020, Novartis Oncology will no longer be able to provide free-of-cost medicines to the cancer patients until clearance of pending liabilities amounting to Rs2,236 million:1164 million for FY 2018-19 and 1072 million for FY 2019-20 and clarity of the roadmap till signing of MoU,” the letter reads.

The letter, whose copies were also forwarded to chief minister, chief secretary and additional secretary technical, made it clear that the company had not received any response within promised 15 days after the detailed meeting convened on December 17 that created uncertainty.

“Novartis Pharma has extended its utmost assistance to ensure continuity of the Punjab CML Project since past one and half years even when government has not provided its agreed contribution. We have been continuously meeting with officials for the last one year but without any conclusive outcome. Since July 2018 till June 2019, we have contributed PKR 12.08 billion in Punjab CML Project. Not only Novartis has provided its full part as per agreement to the registered patients but also provided the medicine where government’s contribution was due. In addition, we ensured provision of medicines to even those who have completed their one year’s therapy. No action has been taken so far despite positive report of third party audit and directions of standing committee to clear outstanding dues and submit revised MoU,” the letter reads.

“keeping in view the above facts, we regret to inform you that it is an insuperable task for us to continue the provision of medicine and we would like to submit that from 1st January, 2020, Novartis Oncology will no longer be able to provide medicines to the cancer patients until clearance of pending liabilities and clarity of the roadmap,” the letter reads.