New Delhi: While countries all over the world demand price cuts in Tuberculosis (TB) drug Bedaquiline from Johnson and Johnson Pvt. Ltd, India is faced with an unusual problem—it is yet to procure a third of the charity courses of the drug donated free of cost by J&J, a top executive said.
India seen slow in procuring J&J’s TB drug Bedaquiline
“The uptake has been much slower than anticipated,” said Vikram Singh, vice-president, medical affairs at Johnson and Johnson Pvt. Ltd. According to executives at J&J, if the government wants to achieve the target of eliminating TB by 2025, it will have to screen and diagnose many more people.
“We stand prepared to be a part of that but we need to move quickly otherwise we will not be able meet 2025 deadline,” said Dr Adrian Thomas, vice-president, access, programmes and policy, global public health, J&J.
Bedaquiline is billed as a potential wonder drug solution to treat multi-drug-resistant (MDR) TB.
As part of is donation programme, Janssen India, the pharmaceutical division of J&J, committed “to donate 10,000 courses of therapy to India. The donation continues till first quarter of next year. We have had orders from India that have been shipped,” said Thomas.
However, India has been slow in procuring even the charity doses. “The original anticipation was to have these courses utilized much before end of this year but that’s not going to happen as per our understanding. We don’t have complete visibility,” Singh said.
Since 2016, India has ordered 6,750 batches of SIRTURO (Bedaquiline) out of 10,000 courses pledged by the company. “We don’t know the exact utilisation status but the uptake has been much slower than anticipated. They are yet to get the remaining 3,250 doses,” Singh said. This, even as the World Health Organization estimates that India had an estimated 84,000 new MDR/rifampicin-resistant-TB cases in 2016. The country has the highest burden of TB in the world, accounting for more than a quarter of all cases worldwide. In 2016, there were nearly 2.8 million TB cases in India.
The government has pushed back its deadline of ending TB by 2015 and, in March this year, began partnership discussions with J&J for eradication of TB by 2025. A detailed email was sent to the Union health ministry on the status of discussions with J&J, utilization of bedaquiline did not elicit any response till the time of going to the press.
At present, India is one of the few countries where J&J offers the drug free of cost under a conditional access programme, which will end in March 2019.