The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends the oral drug Bedaquiline as the backbone of DR-TB treatment, to replace older, more toxic drugs that have to be injected daily and can cause intolerable side effects, such as deafness
US drug maker Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has cut the price of its life-saving oral drug, Bedaquiline, used to treat drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB), by 32 percent to $340 for a six-month regimen for 135 eligible countries, including India.
The drug available before the price cut was available at $400 in several high-burden countries, even as India had procured over 20,000 doses through a global four-year donation programme by J&J and US Agency for International Development (USAID) till 2019.
To help support and accelerate further scale-up of all-oral treatment regimens, the company said it will also provide an escalating percentage of free goods when certain volume thresholds are reached on an annual basis: 10 percent above 55,000 courses, 20 percent above 125,000 and 30 percent above 200,000 treatment courses.
“As the world responds to COVID-19, it is critical that we don’t just fight the new pandemic but act decisively to mitigate the knock-on impact on other diseases, protecting lifesaving programmes and shoring up overstretched health systems,” said Peter Sands, Executive Director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria.
“This new agreement offers an opportunity to save more lives through scaling-up more effective treatment of a difficult-to-treat and deadly disease,” Sands said.
As the leading funder of TB programmes in low- and middle-income countries, the Global Fund is working with partners to support countries in reaching the 125,000 MDR-TB treatment target for 2020.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends the oral drug Bedaquiline as the backbone of DR-TB treatment, to replace older, more toxic drugs that have to be injected daily and can cause intolerable side effects, such as deafness.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, WHO has further advised countries to treat people with DR-TB in the safety of their homes by using all-oral regimens, including Bedaquiline, instead of injections that require people to visit clinics. The older, longer DR-TB treatment used by many countries up to now required people to take up to 14,000 pills over the course of nearly two years and to endure up to eight months painful daily injections.
Médecins Sans Frontières, or Doctors Without Borders India, the Paris-based NGO called on J&J to further reduce the price and offer the lower price to all countries with a high DR-TB burden, so that more lives can be saved.J&J is currently the sole manufacturer of Bedaquiline and has patented the drug in most countries, controlling the price at which it is sold. Its monopoly blocks other manufacturers in India and elsewhere from producing and supplying more affordable generic versions as its patent on the base compound of Bedaquiline expires in 2023.