The Novartis Technical Operations (NTO) organization, which manufactures innovative medicines and Sandoz products, helps us to optimize resource allocation while ensuring quality across our 53 production sites worldwide. NTO is split into different technology platforms with responsibility for large molecules, small molecules, Sandoz products, cell and gene therapies, and ophthalmology and local market production.
In 2021, we continued to ensure a reliable supply of medicines to patients worldwide. Our NTO employees supplied 71 billion treatments in 2021, broadly in line with the previous two years, while also supplying tens of millions of vaccine doses for COVID-19.
Our manufacturing operations also continue to evolve as we invest in new technologies and respond to the changing business environment. In 2021, we started manufacturing our cholesterol-lowering drug Leqvio at our Schaftenau drug production site in Austria. Leqvio is a small-interfering RNA (siRNA) therapy that is approved in more than 50 countries. We are also installing our first siRNA oligonucleotide manufacturing facility at our Schweizerhalle site in Switzerland, which will produce the active ingredient of Leqvio.
In 2021, our production sites responded to sharply increased demand for some Novartis products in China after their inclusion on the country’s National Reimbursement Drug List made them available to more patients. For example, we responded to a significant increase in demand for Cosentyx and Tafinlar versus the previous year.
We are also pursuing a digital transformation of our manufacturing operations with the aim of improved quality and greater efficiency. For more details on how we are using digital technology and data analytics across the company, please see the section “Go big on data and digital.”
We continue to optimize our network of manufacturing sites worldwide, adjusting our production capacity to match our changing product mix. In 2021, we announced plans to transform 11 sites, including three that we plan to sell or close and one that we already sold. We are working with employees affected by the changes to help them manage through the transition.
Supporting demand for COVID-19 vaccines
Novartis is helping produce COVID-19 vaccines at our facilities in Switzerland and Austria as part of our efforts to help end the pandemic and support the stability of global health systems.
Although Novartis no longer has a vaccines business, our many biologics products give us the capabilities to perform mRNA manufacturing and the final step of aseptically filling the vaccine into vials. We prepared our facilities to do this task in only a few months – a process that usually takes more than a year. We produced 40 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in 2021.
We also signed an agreement with Roche for the production at our Singapore site of the active pharmaceutical ingredient for Roche’s Actemra®/RoActemra®, a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis that received emergency use authorization by the US FDA for the treatment of COVID-19 in hospitalized adults and children.
Sustainability in manufacturing
Our manufacturing facilities are central to our efforts to minimize our environmental footprint. The majority of Novartis carbon emissions, water usage and waste in our own operations come from our production sites. In 2021, efforts to reduce the environmental footprint of our manufacturing sites contributed more than 10% of our overall reduction in carbon emissions (Scope 1 and 2) and more than 7% reduction in water consumption, as well as more than 34% of waste reduction in our own operations.
We are investing in new technologies to make our manufacturing processes more resource efficient. For example, an upgrade to the solvent process at our Kundl site in Austria led to a reduction of 8 500 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) annually. Our site in Huningue, France, reduced 19% of its annual energy consumption – equivalent to 1 600 tons of CO2 – through a more energy-efficient system. A site in Turkey used a filtration system to cut water consumption by 14%.
All manufacturing sites are required to treat process water according to local legal requirements before it is returned to the environment. Novartis facilities and priority suppliers are included in our PiE (Pharmaceuticals in the Environment) program to assess their effluent load of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) in water streams against internal standards and requirements from the AMR Industry Alliance framework – a private sector coalition providing sustainable solutions to curb antimicrobial resistance. Potential impacts on water quality from the use of our products downstream in the value chain are considered part of the marketing authorization approval process.
Novartis sites are on track to eliminate polyvinyl chloride in secondary and tertiary packaging by the end of 2022
In addition, Novartis sites are on track to eliminate polyvinyl chloride (PVC) in secondary and tertiary packaging by the end of 2022. For example, we now use a carton-based packaging design for Aimovig, a migraine treatment.