South Africa announces lower price for TB drug bedaquiline

South African Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, has announced that the government of South Africa and Janssen Therapeutics have agreed to a lower price of US$400 (from US$750) for a six-month course of the TB drug bedaquiline.*

Speaking in Amsterdam on 22 July at TB2018, a pre-conference of the International AIDS Conference, Minister Motsoaledi also suggested that the price could drop further and that similar price reductions could be offered to all countries procuring bedaquiline through the Global Drug Facility.

José Luis Castro, Executive Director of The Union, said: “The Union greatly welcomes this announcement. This price will go a long way to ensuring that multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) treatment is affordable and accessible to all those who need it. 

“Agreements such as this set vital precedents on affordable, access to drugs for the rest of the world. We must combine these huge steps forward with research, such as the STREAM clinical trial, providing robust data on the best use of bedaquiline for beating MDR-TB.”

Also at TB2018

Throughout the day, conversations at TB2018 looked towards the upcoming United Nations (UN) High-Level Meeting (HLM) on Tuberculosis (TB) on 26 September. Speakers shared measured excitement at the opportunity, tempered with the reality of the work still to be done. Calls for heads of state to commit to attend the meeting were echoed throughout the day, as were demands for increased funding into research and development (R&D) and the need for an accountability mechanism to force governments to follow through on resulting declarations. 

Speaking at the opening session, Dr Souyma Swaminathan, Deputy Director General for Programmes of the World Health Organization, said “I am very optimistic now – but we need to take this once in a lifetime opportunity to come together and make TB and HIV history.”

José Luis Castro, Executive Director, The Union, co-chaired a session on sustainable financing, which presented perspectives from the World Bank and the Stop TB Partnership as well as health economists, NGO representatives and civil society.

He said, “We all know that TB is hugely under-funded - both in TB care and prevention and TB R&D. We must close the funding gap. We must leverage the UN HLM on TB for new funding.”

Union Board member, Blessina Kumar, CEO of the Global Coalition of TB Activists, shared the community perspective during a panel discussion on the accountability framework in TB. 

“With 4,600 deaths each day globally, I’m sorry to say our response is shameful. The number of people dying each year is more than natural disasters. It’s like four tsunamis a year. It’s like 16 jumbo jets crashing. And our response is inadequate.”

During a panel discussion on reducing TB-HIV morbidity, Dr Paula I Fujiwara, The Union’s Scientific Director, compared the HIV movement to that of TB. “The issue of stigma is key to the TB response. In the HIV world, stigma has been reduced. Most significantly, I have never heard a TB person say 'I am living positively with TB'. This has to change.”

TB is of concern to the wider community – nearly 40 percent of AIDS deaths are caused by TB – and it requires an integrated response from both communities, as well as all sectors – health-related and otherwise – working towards improving lives for people worldwide.  

The Union carries the momentum forward this week during AIDS2018 as the HIV community gathers to rally forces. Activities include:

*SIRTURO® (bedaquiline) is produced by Janssen, Division of Janssen Products, LP, one of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson. Bedaquiline, is a diarylquinoline antimycobacterial agent developed by Janssen for the treatment of MDR-TB as part of a combination therapy. It works by inhibiting adenosine 5'-triphosphate (ATP) synthase, an enzyme essential for the generation of energy in Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

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