- Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan says cannabis is not a priority for the Swiss drugmaker despite its partnership withÂ Canadian marijuana giantÂ Tilray.
- Narasimhan says he is trying to shape Novartis into a company that is âuniquely placedâ in the health-care system, balancing between consumer health needs and more rare health concerns like gene diseases.
Tilray is working with Novartisâ generic drug business Sandoz and supplying non-smokable and non-combustible medical cannabis products where it is legally allowed. As a part of the deal announced in December, Tilray and Sandoz may co-brand certain products as well as develop new ones. It was the first major partnership between a pharmaceutical company and a cannabis business.
But speaking with CNBCâsÂ Jim CramerÂ from CNBCâs âHealthy Returnsâ conference in New York City, Narasimhan said cannabis is ânot a focusâ for the pharma company.
Narasimhan said he is instead trying to shape Novartis into a company that is âuniquely placedâ in the health-care system, balancing between more common ailments such as dry-eye disease or migraines and more rare health concerns like gene diseases, which affects 350 million people worldwide.
The Swiss drugmaker is expected this year to launch its gene therapy called Zolgensma for spinal muscular atrophy, a muscle-wasting disease and leading genetic cause of infant mortality, affecting one in every 11,000 live births. The treatment is estimated to boast a price tag between $1.5 million and $5 million.
In his interview Tuesday, Narasimhan said heâs âhopefulâ the company will get approval for the gene therapy soon. âWe believe in the long run we can bring meaningful innovation … and this can potentially cure kids of a disease,â he added.
Tilray Inc. shares were unchanged in after-hours trading Tuesday. Year-to-date, Tilray, Inc. - Class 2 (TLRY - Get Rating) has declined -36.80%, versus a 15.14% rise in the benchmark S&P 500 index during the same period.
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