J&J donates new tuberculosis drug

Johnson & Johnson will donate 30,000 doses of its multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) drug Sirturo to help anti-TB programmes around the world.

$30m-worth of Sirturo (bedaquiline) – the first medication for pulmonary MDR‐TB with a novel mechanism of action in over 40 years – will be made available for programmes supported by the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

Without significant public health intervention MDR-TB will infect more than two million people between 2011 and 2015, according to estimates from the World Health Organization (WHO), and is considered one of the world’s most serious public health threats.

The move reflects the fact that even when innovative medicines become available, there are still major challenges in providing access to those therapies in a responsible and appropriate way, particularly in countries with weaker healthcare systems.

Over the coming months, J&J subsidiary Janssen and USAID will “solicit support, develop eligibility criteria and engage others to help address this public health crisis,” according to the company.

The number of patients presenting with TB that is resistant to at least two of the most powerful medicines in the standard four-drug therapy is on the rise, killing 150,000 people a year. Moreover, treatment is typically lengthy and complex, with an average treatment success rate of just 48 per cent.

Sirturo’s critical role in tackling MDR-TB was recognised when it won the orphan drug category in this year’s Prix Galien in the UK, having been granted a conditional approval in Europe in March.

“With nearly half a million people affected worldwide and approximately 210,000 losing their lives to this disease in 2013, we are engaging in pioneering partnerships with likeminded stakeholders invested in global public health,” commented Paul Stoffels, J&J’s chief scientific officer.

The ability to scale up the appropriate use of treatment regimens remains very challenging in vulnerable countries and – in order to prevent further resistance – it is essential to ensure responsible access to new treatment options, with accurate diagnosis and careful documentation of their use and impact.

Janssen is already working with the Stop TB Partnership to improve access to effective medicines in more than 100 countries worldwide.

“Our work to combat the scourge of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis is far from over,” said Stoffels.

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