Novartis to provide free medicines to low-income medicare recipients

Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation announced today that the company will work with Medicare-approved drug discount card sponsors to provide its products free of Novartis charges to low-income Medicare enrollees, after they have exhausted their $600 transitional assistance available from the government.

More than 7.4 million Medicare enrollees will participate in the drug discount card programs, according to the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Of those, 4.7 million have annual incomes under 135% of the Federal Poverty Level.

These enrollees are eligible for "transitional assistance" until the Medicare prescription drug bill takes effect in 2006. Enrollees who have exhausted their $600 credit will be eligible for Novartis products free. Patients are responsible for any third party charges. We estimate charges to be approximately $5 -- $10 for most products.

Novartis receives no portion of charges. "I think it's admirable that Novartis is taking concrete steps to help me and others gain access to the medicines we need," said Barbara Jester, Medicare beneficiary, West Orange, NJ. "Novartis is coming forward and providing free medicines to those who are the most needy," said Paulo Costa, President & CEO of Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation. "Patients under 135% Federal Poverty Level will benefit greatly under the new prescription drug benefit in January 2006. We wanted to make sure that they have access to the medicines they need now." Said Tommy G. Thompson, Secretary of Health and Human Services, "One of the strongest features of the Medicare law is the additional assistance provided to low-income seniors. As today's announcement shows, there are real opportunities for the public and private sector to work together to provide needed relief on prescription drug costs, and low-income seniors are the winners. I commend Novartis for taking this important step." Medicare-approved drug discount cards will be available starting in June.

The new program provides seniors with immediate assistance on prescription drug costs before the comprehensive Medicare drug benefit starts January 1, 2006. Novartis was one of the first pharmaceutical companies to introduce a prescription savings card, the Novartis Care Card, which provides discounts on Novartis products to low income Medicare enrollees without prescription drug coverage. Additionally, in April 2002, Novartis became a founding member of Together Rx, the first coalition of pharmaceutical companies to come together to address this growing need.

Novartis also has an extensive Patient Assistance Program which provides assistance to patients without prescription drug coverage who are experiencing financial hardship. The implementation of the program discussed in this release is subject to our ability to reach mutually acceptable contractual arrangements with our Medicare-approved partner sponsors.

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