Novartis has launched an access programme under which 15 of its medicines will be offered to healthcare providers in low- and low-middle-income countries for just $1 per drug per month.

The treatments on offer - both patented and generic - are all geared towards treating chronic diseases such as diabetes, respiratory illnesses, and breast cancer, to help reign in their growing spread in areas of the world with limited access to healthcare.

The Novartis Access portfolio will be rolled out first in Kenya, Ethiopia and Vietnam, but Novartis ultimately intends to offer the programme in as many as 30 countries, depending on uptake.

The Swiss drug giant said it is also looking to partner with governments, NGOs and other public-sector organisations to strengthen healthcare systems, with areas of potential collaboration including raising diseases awareness, training healthcare professionals, and strengthening medicine distribution systems.

Around 28 million people die from chronic diseases in low- and middle-income countries every year, accounting for 75% of such deaths globally. Novartis said it believes its unique approach to improving access to potentially life-saving medicines will be commercially sustainable over the long term, enabling it to provide continuous support in these regions.