PIH Urges Further Steps to Ensure TB Drugs Available to All

Joins John Green in asking Johnson & Johnson to make details of Stop TB deal public

Posted on Jul 13, 2023

Two women in PIH-supported lab
Mary Mebitso (right) works in a laboratory at PIH-supported Botsabelo MDR-TB Hospital in Maseru, Lesotho. Photo by Thomas Patterson / Partners In Health

As an organization that believes passionately in bringing the benefits of modern medical science to those most in need of them, PIH is cautiously optimistic after hearing today that Johnson & Johnson plans to work with the Global Drug Facility, a United Nations-based procurer of medications for public health systems around the world, to open the doors to generic medication for tuberculosis. A few hours ago the Stop TB Partnership, an organization which runs the Global Drug Facility, posted a blog saying J&J had given the Facility approval to purchase and supply generic versions of bedaquiline, a key drug in treating tuberculosis, to “the majority of low-and middle-income countries.” If J&J lives up to the spirit of this agreement, bedaquiline will lower prices of TB treatment, make treatment more accessible to people, and save lives. 

Many partners and friends have recognized the need for increased access to bedaquiline—TB kills some 1.6 million people each year, making it the most deadly infectious disease in the world—and have pushed for urgent action, including author and PIH trustee John Green and the Nerdfighteria community. At PIH, we will build on the work we’ve done as TB activists and clinicians—publicly and privately calling on J&J to increase access to bedaquiline, running two global clinical trials to make sure bedaquiline is prescribed in the most optimal way, and more.

While optimistic, we will not be ready to celebrate until J&J takes steps to ensure access. First, J&J needs to formalize its commitment to equitable access to bedaquiline by making the details of the Stop TB deal public, including specifics about eligible countries, quantities, and indefinite duration. Second, we must maintain solidarity with people suffering from TB. Despite a positive step today, the same cruel pharmaceutical system remains. Companies can still get patents for fake “innovations,” can still privatize publicly funded research and development, and can still put profits over patients. Whatever comes of the promised deal, PIH will keep working to address these systemic inequities and advance long-term solutions in the fight against TB.

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