MSF campaigns for cheaper TB drug from manufacturer

Saturday October 12 2019

Patients with HIV and tuberculosis

Patients with HIV and tuberculosis (TB) wear masks while awaiting consultation at a clinic in Cape Town's Khayelitsha township, South Africa, on February 23, 2010. PHOTO | REUTERS 

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International medical humanitarian organisation Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières, MSF), has launched a global campaign to compel US pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson to lower the price of bedaquiline.

In a statement released on Wednesday, MSF wants it to cost no more than $1 per day for people who need it, in order to allow scale-up of drug-resistant TB (DR-TB) treatment and reduce deaths.

Currently, J & J is charging double the price by pricing bedaquiline at $400 for a six-month treatment course for countries eligible to buy the drug through the Global Drug Facility (GDF)—a TB drug and diagnostic procurement mechanism, operating out of a UN agency.

“However, researchers from the University of Liverpool have calculated that bedaquiline could be produced and sold at a profit for much less—as little as 25 US cents per day if at least 108,000 treatment courses were sold per year,” MSF added.

At $1 per day, the price of bedaquiline would be $600 per person for the 20 months of treatment that many DR-TB patients require.

“In comparison, the lowest price J & J charges today for 20 months of bedaquiline is nearly $1,200 ($2 per day) in countries eligible to purchase through GDF, while J & J charges other countries much more.


This high price affects the scale-up of the drug in many countries struggling with DR-TB epidemics, considering that bedaquiline is just one of multiple drugs required in treatment regimens.

A single course of bedaquiline consisting of 188 tablets and lasts a patient six months each course is sold at $900 in markets like South Africa, according to The Economic Times, an English-language, Indian daily newspaper.

“In the US, bedaquiline is priced at $30,000 for one course,” the newspaper quoted an article.

MSF is now demanding the price cut, considering the joint contributions made in the development of the drug.

The organisation further said that bedaquiline was developed with considerable taxpayers’s funding, through joint research and development effort by the global TB community.

Despite this, J & J is the only manufacturer that owns the patent on the drug in many countries and has sole rights to determine in which countries the drug will be sold.