Johnson and Johnson has committed to provide an additional 10,000 courses of tuberculosis drug bedaquiline to India through the US Agency for International Development (USAID). This takes the number of free courses of the drug given to India to 20,000. The earlier global donation programme ended in March.
Bedaquiline is the first medicine for drug-resistant TB in nearly 50 years. It is said to be less toxic and more effective than the traditional ones.
The drug is at the heart of price discussions and patent-related litigation in India. About two months ago, two TB patients had filed a patent challenge on a salt form of bedaquiline at the Mumbai Patent Office to prevent J&J from pursuing a secondary claim on the drug.
Meanwhile, a statement from J&J said that it had, through its Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies, donated more than 10,000 courses of bedaquiline in 2016 as part of a global donation programme, operated in partnership with USAID. This was with the aim of supporting and enabling the Indian government to build capacity for the medicine’s introduction, it added.
The company said it is working with the Indian government and international and local partners to improve surveillance and diagnostic capacity, train health workers in the clinical management of TB, and raise awareness about TB at the community level. It is also supporting the Make in India programme by partnering locally to produce bedaquiline for use in India and globally, it said.
The Indian government has set itself a target of ending TB by 2025, five years ahead of the global Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target of 2030. There are an estimated 1,35,000 cases of drug-resistant TB in India every year, and currently less than 30 per cent of these patients are diagnosed and put on appropriate treatment regimen, the note said.
J&J has been in the news in India over the global recall of its faulty hip implants and the compensation its been asked to pay patients and, more recently, over health concerns involving its baby powder and shampoo.