Affordable Tuberculosis Drugs At Last, After Johnson & Johnson Loses Its Patent

A new path forward in the fight against drug monopolies.

Gil Pires
Microbial Instincts

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With public pressure mounting, the pharma branch of Johnson & Johnson has agreed to not enforce its patent on bedaquiline — a core tuberculosis drug — which will see the drug’s price hopefully cut down by two-thirds.

Tuberculosis (TB) held the record for the deadliest infectious disease in the world for years, before Covid-19 came along. It kills over a million people annually and affects ten times that number; afflicting predominately lower-income countries.

While treatment with first-line antibiotics has a high success rate, it can be difficult to comply with the 6-month-long regimen for many of those who can’t afford it. This is further aggravated by cases of drug-resistant bacteria that account for 3.6% of total cases and require second-line medicines, which have lower treatment success rates.

Bedaquiline is one such drug. Sold under the brand name Sirturo® by Johnson & Johnson Innovative Medicine — formerly known as Janssen Pharmaceuticals — bedaquiline is an antibacterial drug used specifically to treat multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB).

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