4th annual charity indoor bicycle ride for children with asthma

22. 1. 2009

Ljubljana, January 22, 2009 – Today, Slovene ultra-marathon bicyclist Marko Baloh and the Asthma and Sports Association, together with their partners in the project, Lek, a Sandoz company and the BTC company, announced the 4th annual indoor bicycle ride for children with asthma. The ten-hour ride on indoor bikes will take place on Saturday, January 24, 2009, from 9 am to 7 pm at the Ljubljana Fairgrounds, as part of the Tourism and Leisure Time fair. Marko Baloh will be joined by various top Slovene athletes (Mitja Petkovšek, Mojca Rode, Gorazd Penko with female cyclist team) and cyclists from Lek.

The Asthma and Sports Association emphasizes the importance of a healthy lifestyle and physical activity for a better life with asthma. The annual charity indoor bike ride is intended to increase public awareness about the most common non-contagious chronic disease among children and youth, and show how patients can improve their lives in an active manner. “In order to effectively combat asthma, medicines are the key, but a healthy lifestyle makes a significant additional contribution. Correct breathing, relaxing and overcoming fear and anxiety are extremely important during the phase when asthma is worsening. An active approach to controlling asthma results in longer periods without symptoms or serious exacerbation of the disease,” explained Uroš Reisman of the Asthma and Sports Association, who added that increasing air pollution and presence of chemicals in the living environment are causing an increasing number of people to be affected.

At the annual indoor bicycle ride, ultra-marathon bicyclist Marko Baloh, who himself has asthma, will ride for ten hours without pausing. During that time he will be joined by various people, including some top Slovene athletes. “However, anyone who wants to can participate, and combine pleasure with benefits, exercise for a healthy body and charity,” says Marko Baloh. All participants will contribute 10 euros per hour of cycling, and the total for the day will be donated to children with asthma, for whom the Asthma and Sports Association will arrange free swimming. Additional funds will be provided by Lek, a Sandoz Company, and the BTC company. Last year funds collected through the charity bike ride allowed 20 children to enjoy ten days of holiday in Pacug on the Slovenian coast.

“The BTC company will once again participate in the charity event with Marko Baloh. Four years ago we supported his idea of a charity bicycle ride and we were the main sponsor and host of the event for three years at the Millennium Sports Center. In addition, as in past years BTC will donate 500 euros to the Asthma and Sports Association for children’s holidays, once again confirming the well-known saying “Healthy body, healthy mind”, and the fact that that many difficulties and obstacles in life can be overcome through sports and an active lifestyle, including asthma, as proved by Marko Baloh. Athletes sponsored by BTC will also participate in the bike ride, including gymnasts Mitja Petkovšek and Aljaž Pegan, rhythmic gymnast Mojca Rode and judo competitor Sašo Jereb, as well as the entire Polet women’s cycling team led by Gorazd Penko,” said Maja Oven, Director of Market Communications and Public Relations at BTC.

Part of the team of cyclists from Lek who rode 850 kilometers around Slovenia with Marko Baloh last year as part of the Lek Better Breathing marathon will also join the charity bicycle ride. The marathon was part of the activities held in honor of World Asthma Day, and the cyclists were accompanied by a mobile team from the Asthma and Sports Association, which held Asthma Schools in towns around Slovenia. “According to research data, since 2000 more and more people in Slovenia are contracting asthma, of whom at least 14 percent are children and young people. The approach of the Asthma and Sports Association, where physical activity is promoted in association with medicines as the key factor for effective treatment, is positive. Therefore we at Lek, a Sandoz company believe that together with the Asthma and Sports Association we can contribute to increasing awareness of the importance of an active and healthy lifestyle for people with asthma. We are working long-term with the association, and this collaboration is already bearing fruit in the form of a new program of awareness-raising about living with asthma. Last year we collaborated on World Asthma Day and together developed the Lek Better Breathing marathon, which will be held again this May, and we also made holidays possible for 10 children with asthma and one month of swimming, which the association organizes for children and adults with asthma,” said Katarina Klemenc Dinjaški, Head of Corporate Communications at Lek, who added that Sandoz uses their wealth of experience to produce difficult-to-make medicines for patients with asthma, which significantly improve the quality of their lives.

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Lek, a Sandoz company, is one of the pillars of leading world generics company Sandoz. It operates as a global development center for products and technologies, as a global manufacturing center for active pharmaceutical ingredients and medicines, as a competence center for the development of vertically integrated products, as a Sandoz competence center in the field of development and manufacturing of biopharmaceutical products and as a supply center for the markets of CEE, SEE and CIS, sales Slovenia and sales services for Sandoz’s global markets. Lek d.d. employs about 2,820 people and achieved total sales of USD 904 million in 2006. For further information please consult http://www.lek.si

Sandoz, a Division of the Novartis group, is a global leader in the field of generic pharmaceuticals, offering a wide array of high-quality, affordable products that are no longer protected by patents. Sandoz has a portfolio of more than 840 active substances in over 5 000 forms worldwide. Key product groups include antibiotics, treatments for central nervous system disorders, gastrointestinal medicines, cardiovascular treatments and hormone therapies. Sandoz develops, produces and markets these drugs along with pharmaceutical and biotechnological active substances and anti-infectives. In addition to the strong organic growth in recent years, Sandoz has made a series of acquisitions including Lek (Slovenia), Sabex (Canada), Hexal (Germany) and EonLabs (U.S.) and sells its products in more than 110 countries. In 2006, Sandoz employed around 21,000 people worldwide and posted sales of USD 6 billion.

Novartis AG (NYSE: NVS) is a world leader in offering medicines to protect health, cure disease and improve well-being. Our goal is to discover, develop and successfully market innovative products to treat patients, ease suffering and enhance the quality of life. Novartis is the only company with leadership positions in both patented and generic pharmaceuticals. We are strengthening our medicine-based portfolio, which is focused on strategic growth platforms in innovation-driven pharmaceuticals, high-quality and low-cost generics and leading self-medication OTC brands. In 2006, the Group’s businesses achieved net sales of USD 37.0 billion and net income of USD 7.2 billion. Approximately USD 5.4 billion was invested in R&D. Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Novartis Group companies employ approximately 101,000 people and operate in over 140 countries around the world. For more information, please visit http://www.novartis.com.

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This press release contains statements and conclusions based on projections of Lek’s future business operations. These estimates are derived from the best information currently available. In case these forecasts prove unreliable, the actual results could prove different from those projected.

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For further information contact:

Katarina Klemenc Dinjaški

Corporate Communications

Lek Pharmaceuticals d.d.

Phone: + 386 1 580 22 43

Fax: + 386 1 580 24 32