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Amid a push to widen access to medicines to poor countries, Novartis has reached an agreement to license one of its best-selling cancer treatments so that generic manufacturers can produce copies for distribution to 44 low- and middle-income nations.

The deal with the Medicines Patent Pool, a public health organization backed by the United Nations, marks the first time that a voluntary licensing deal has been arranged for a cancer medication. Until now, such agreements have involved treatments for infectious diseases — notably, HIV and hepatitis C, as well as a pair of antiviral pills used to combat Covid-19.

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