Kathmandu, November 10:

Medicines will be provided for free to leprosy patients for another five years, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said in a press release issued today. The WHO and Novartis AG, a pharmaceutical company, recently signed an agreement to this effect.

As per the five-year agreement, medicines worth $14.5 million-24.5 million will be provided. The first phase of the donation, which was launched in 2000, helped cure about four million million leprosy patients.

As of the beginning of 2005, the number of leprosy cases stood at 2.86 lakh, a drop of 38 per cent from the beginning of 2004.

Since 1985, over 14 million patients have been cured of leprosy through multidrug therapy. “The excellent news is that millions of people have been cured of leprosy and saved from a life of disability and stigma through the use of this simple, effective treatment,” Dr LEE Jong-wook, the WHO director-general stated in a release.

“We are reaffirming our commitment to helping patients with leprosy and helping eliminate this disease as a public health problem,” Dr Daniel Vasella, the chairman and CEO of Novartis stated in a release issued today.