6 August 2020 · Global Partnership for Zero Leprosy

Novartis Kalwe Site Associates Live On-Site during COVID-19 Lockdown to Maintain Multi-Drug Therapy Supply Chain for WHO Donation Program

Photo courtesy of Novartis

The COVID-19 pandemic has halted many leprosy control and prevention activities globally, putting vulnerable communities further at risk. The Novartis Technical Operations (NTO) Sandoz Kalwe site, located north of Mumbai on India’s west coast, faced new challenges beginning earlier this year, when strict lockdown was enforced in India to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The lockdown measures interrupted key transport routes needed for the site’s multi-drug therapy (MDT) manufacturing and supply, thereby putting leprosy patients’ access to MDT, which is used to cure leprosy, at risk.

Recognizing the need for continuous MDT supply, associates at the Kalwe site have been working relentlessly to help persons affected by leprosy.

The Kalwe site urgently adapted to the lockdown measures and activated an emergency management plan to maintain operations, and the premises were completely sanitized. To ensure continued MDT manufacturing, the Kalwe site set up residential arrangements for 160 associates to live and work on-site for two full weeks at the start of the lockdown.

Cross-functional teams provided medical support, sanitation, essential supplies, transportation, groceries for associates’ families, and COVID-19 testing for staff and associates at the factory. A second team stayed in a nearby hotel to prepare to replace the first team after two weeks. “I feel proud to be able to do my part for those who are fighting against critical diseases,” said Kalwe site associate, Ukesh Singh.

Now that it is safe to commute, the Kalwe site associates have returned to their homes. Through innovation and quick action, the Kalwe site was able to overcome pandemic-related obstacles. The site arranged a plan to keep associates safe and ensure the continued supply of the indispensable drug within nine days.

For more than 20 years, Novartis has provided persons affected by leprosy with the medication they need by donating MDT to WHO, reaching 7 million patients since 2000. Because MDT distribution is critical to the care of leprosy patients worldwide, WHO and Novartis have gone to new lengths to ensure health care for persons affected by leprosy amidst the pandemic. The Kalwe site’s dedication to maintain MDT supplies further illustrates this commitment.

Concerned that COVID-19 would affect MDT access, GPZL’s Working Group 1 began investigating supply chain issues at the start of the pandemic. However, because of the continued partnership with Novartis Global Health and WHO, the Kalwe site has maintained worldwide MDT supply, and supply lines have remained largely uninterrupted by the lockdown. As a result of the Kalwe site’s efforts, leprosy patients have continued to access the life-saving medications they need to live healthy, productive lives. Kalwe site associates take pride in their purpose. “We feel very honored to work in this pandemic situation to manufacture medicine for leprosy,” said Swami Siddheshwar. “I am grateful to say I am part of the Novartis family.”


Read more about Novartis Technical Operations manufacturing successes during COVID-19.