Ensuring medicine supply to patients during COVID-19
Multidrug therapy (MDT) was a major breakthrough in the fight against leprosy and remains the cornerstone of the global leprosy elimination strategy. The Sandoz Kalwe site, located north of Mumbai on India’s west coast, manufactures and supplies MDT to the World Health Organization as part of the Novartis pledge to donate MDT medicines to eliminate leprosy
But in March, manufacturing and supplying MDT became a challenge as COVID-19 spread and India ordered a nationwide lockdown, including the partial closure of air and sea routes.
People affected by leprosy are often marginalized from health services, and disability and disease transmission could worsen due to a lack of timely diagnosis and treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic. Recognizing this, associates at the Kalwe site have been working relentlessly to help ensure a continuous MDT supply to these vulnerable patients.
Despite stringent safety measures, some associates at the site tested positive for COVID-19, thereby compromising the workforce capacity. Site management immediately activated an emergency management plan to maintain operations, and the premises were completely sanitized.
In a few days, arrangements to tackle the COVID-19 situation at the site were made for those associates who stayed on to continue manufacturing MDT and other immunosuppressant medicines. These included 24/7 medical help, food, bedding and laundry cleaning for the 160 associates residing on site, and regular disinfection of all the areas they visited. Another team stayed at a nearby hotel, ready to replace the first group after a few weeks. All associates were tested for COVID-19 before being allowed back on site.
Additionally, transport was organized for colleagues who could not reach the site on their own, and groceries were provided to associates and their families who had no access to essential commodities due to the lockdown.
Through dedication and hard work, the teams in Kalwe were able to overcome the challenges and completely restore supplies of MDT medicines within 9 days.