A surprising trend in the field of oncology has been observed by the Swiss pharmaceutical Novartis. A trend that has emerged since the start of the covid-19 pandemic seems to be continuing. Patients with cancer and cardiovascular diseases had been staying away from hospitals that were literally besieged by Covid patients. During most of 2020 and 2021, the underlying message across the world was that a visit to a hospital for ailments other than Covid should be avoided until absolutely necessary. People with other symptoms mostly stayed away as they were afraid of catching the Covid infection from hospitals.
Novartis CEO Reporting Drop-in Cancer Cases
This trend resulted in 85% less screening for breast cancer during the peak of the pandemic. Screenings were also reduced by 75%, 74%, and 56% for colon, prostate, and lung cancers respectively during this period. Treatment in terms of mastectomies, prostatectomies, and colectomies also proportionately dropped during this period.
This trend was understandable. But Novartis CEO Vasant Narasimhan was surprised to note that 30 to 40% lower diagnoses of cardiovascular and oncology are continuing to be observed. CEO Narasimhan referred to a poll from the National Poll on Healthy Aging organized by the Michigan University Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation which had found that 33% of Americans between the ages of 50 to 80 years of age with cancer and heart diseases had delayed at least one visit to the doctor.
This Firm which manufactures drugs for the treatment of cancer is apprehensive that delayed treatment of cancer could worsen the condition of the patient and would require extra care and medication. CEO Narasimhan feels that this is also true for patients with cardiovascular issues.
Meanwhile, new variants of the Covid-19 virus, particularly the Beta, Delta, and lambda variants are causing cases of infected people to increase in waves around the world. Novartis feels that healthcare systems should not neglect therapeutic treatment of other diseases altogether and that both need to be balanced so that patients requiring therapeutic treatment are not neglected altogether.
The trend of lower oncology diagnoses has also been observed in Europe and Japan with figures between 26% to as high as 51% reduction. In the United States, however, an increase in cases of metastatic cancer was observed.
Novartis and other biopharma companies have continued to provide support and funding for research and development in not only therapeutic treatment but also in researching new forms of Cancer. The results of these efforts are 3500 new cancer treatments, up by 75% since 2015. Global spending on oncology drugs touched US$ 164 billion during 2020 and is expected to touch US$ 269 billion by 2025.
All these innovations in oncology and therapeutic treatment have helped Novartis see a resurging demand in therapeutic care and has resulted in the company achieve 9% growth in sales and 13% growth in its income.
Novartis CEO Narasimhan admitted that the continuing drop of 30-40% diagnoses is a good and encouraging sign. He reiterated the commitment of Novartis to maintain its care and commitment even as the Covid-19 pandemic seems to subside and then re-emerge.
Novartis warns that the medical community around the world will have learned vital lessons to maintain a literally healthy balance between all types of treatment to prevent what Narasimhan calls a ‘syndemic’, an epidemic of the other neglected diseases of cancer and cardiovascular and even gastroenteritic diseases that may be getting lower priority now but have a potential to grow to unmanageable levels.
But if the present trends of lower diagnoses of Oncological and cardiovascular cases are sustained, this could augur well for both patients as well as healthcare systems.
Novartis has moved to make Covid vaccines and is now manufacturing the Pfizer vaccine. Novartis has also joined hands with CureVac for making vaccines.
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With over 15 years as a practicing journalist, Nikki Attkisson found herself at Powdersville Post now after working at several other publications. She is an award-winning journalist with an entrepreneurial spirit and worked as a journalist covering technology, innovation, environmental issues, politics, health etc. Nikki Attkisson has also worked on product development, content strategy, and editorial management for numerous media companies. She began her career at local news stations and worked as a reporter in national newspapers.