Novartis CEO Sees ‘Better Place’ With Covid by Year-End

Novartis CEO Sees World in ‘Better Place’ With Covid by Year-End

This may be the year when the world comes to terms with the persistent reality of Covid-19 and reaches a new sense of normalcy, Novartis AG Chief Executive Officer Vas Narasimhan said. 

“It’s really just a matter now of getting to a place where we feel comfortable with the rollout of vaccines, the availability of therapeutics and appropriate measures when hospitals come under strain, but otherwise returning to more of a sense of normalcy,” Narasimhan said in an interview aired on Tuesday at Bloomberg’s The Year Ahead summit. “There’s no question at this point in my mind that before the end of this year we’ll get to a better place.”

Governments will need “a careful balancing act” to minimize undue harm along the way to reviving regular social contact, the CEO cautioned. Officials from highly vaccinated European countries in particular have begun to point toward the possibility of moving toward a more business-as-usual approach to Covid, with the interior minister of Switzerland, Novartis’s home market, saying last week that the country may be on the eve of a transition toward living with the virus. 

Some public health experts have predicted that the pandemic is moving from an acute phase toward an endemic one, in which the virus is entrenched, yet somewhat less deadly. That won’t necessarily mean it has been defanged, according to Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization’s health emergencies program. 

“People talk about pandemic versus endemic,” Ryan said at a virtual World Economic Forum event. “Endemic malaria kills hundreds of thousands of people. Endemic HIV, endemic violence in inner cities -- endemic in itself does not mean good. Endemic just means it’s here forever.” 

Novartis is among drugmakers pushing forward with a potential Covid therapy. The Swiss drugs giant aims to request an emergency-use authorization for its experimental injection ensovibep from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration within the next month, Narasimhan said last week. 

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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