Novartis US Foundation commits $25M to improve health equity, reduce disparity

Linda Lindner//September 17, 2020

Novartis US Foundation commits $25M to improve health equity, reduce disparity

Linda Lindner//September 17, 2020

The Novartis US Foundation on Thursday announced a commitment of $25 million to develop partnerships and fund community organizations and programs in the United States that address health inequities, with a focus on diversity in clinical trials.

The East Hanover-based Novartis US Foundation says this commitment reinforces its mission to improve health in underserved communities in the nation by creating innovative and sustainable solutions to expand access to health care and build trust within the health care system.

Since re-focusing its mission last year, the Novartis US Foundation has committed more than $10 million to develop partnerships to enable health care systems to better meet the needs of their patients by addressing barriers to care, or by identifying changes needed to address the underlying causes of health disparities. This support included signature partnerships with New Jersey Primary Care Association, The CDC Foundation, Institute for Healthcare Improvement and $5 million to support COVID-19 response efforts—including 40 grants to support local communities.

A key area of focus for the additional commitment will be in addressing the vast underrepresentation of minorities, including Black Americans, in clinical trials. In 2019, African Americans made up 13.5 percent of the U.S. population, but only 9 percent of clinical trial participants.

Diversity in clinical trials is critical to understanding how medicines will work in all patient populations impacted by the disease.

Thomas Kendris, U.S. country head for Novartis.
Thomas Kendris, U.S. country head for Novartis. – NOVARTIS

“In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and heightened attention on racial injustice in the U.S., there has been new and significant recognition of disparities in care in minority communities. We have accelerated our commitment to create innovative and sustainable partnerships that have the potential to improve health equity in underserved communities, including African American/Black and Hispanic communities,” said Novartis Corp. U.S. President Tom Kendris, who also serves as chairman of the board of trustees for Novartis US Foundation.

“We believe the Novartis US Foundation can serve as a catalyst for change through a multi-year, multi-million dollar commitment. As part of this effort, we will collaborate with partners and support industry-wide programs to improve diversity in clinical trials through systemic and policy-driven solutions that go beyond calls to study sponsors to be more inclusive,” continued Kendris.

There are several barriers to clinical trial participation reflective of other systemic issues leading to disparities in health, such as mistrust of the health care system; a lack of comfort or understanding of health systems, including clinical trial processes; as well as time and resource constraints associated with participation. The US Foundation is in the exploration phase to identify all dimensions of these issues and to identify new collaborators from the public, private and advocacy sectors.