Janssen’s ‘miracle Drug’ to battle multi-drug resistant tuberculosis MDR-TB, and extensively-drug resistant TB (XDR-TB) is being introduced in six Public hospitals across the country in coordination with the government. Janssen is the pharma arm of the company Johnson and Johnson.
The new drug called ‘Bedaquiline’ (trade name Sirturo), is the first of its kind in decades to dramatically improve MDR-TB treatment results, decreasing the number of people who die of it.
As the disease happens to be spreading at an alarming rate, this multinational partnering comes across as the first of its kind with in collaboration with the government.
India accounts for 23% of tuberculosis cases globally with 220,000 death occurring in 2014 from this bacterial lung ailment that spreads through coughing and sneezing. A disease widespread in the sub continent, it has over 2.2 million Indians suffering from it, with over 70,000 inflicted with MDR -TB.
The treatment for it has been introduced under the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme.
“We are ready with the roll-out of the drug through the government-run control programme, for which 600 patients will be enrolled across the country, over the next six to nine months, after the required tests. Upon the review of clinical data after two years, the access programme will be expanded nationwide,” Sanjiv Navangul, Janssen India MD told TOI in an exclusive interview.
“We will sit across the table (with the government) to discuss pricing. This (therapy) is not a business (for the company) and not about revenues, and we will be flexible about pricing,” he added.
The treatment for tuberculosis being an expensive one, global concern is being expressed about the price of medication for the same. According to WHO estimates $ 5000-10,000 is the cost of medication for patients suffering from MDR-TB; a burden on the already weak National Control Programmes.
Keeping medical expenses in mind Janssen has introduced a tiered -pricing structure for TB, wherein the medication is priced at $ 3000 in middle income countries and $ 900 in low income countries. A relief for TB patients and their families.
A similar programme launched in South Africa is already seeing success, the company claims. Further, Janssen has entered an agreement with International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases (Union) to conduct clinical trials, called ‘STREAM’, to evaluate a further simplified treatment regimen. In January, the Union presented a proposal to include Indian sites in a STREAM II study for which patients will be enrolled.