Christophe Perrin, TB advocacy pharmacist, MSF Access Campaign
“Today’s announcement by the Stop TB Partnership/Global Drug Facility about a deal with pharmaceutical corporation Johnson & Johnson (J&J), for access to affordable generic versions of the lifesaving tuberculosis (TB) drug bedaquiline, offers a short-term solution for low- and middle-income countries — but the deal remains just a stop-gap because bedaquiline will only be available to a limited number of countries that will be included in this agreement, procuring through the Global Drug Facility. The full terms of the agreement still need to be made public.
While the included list of countries has yet to be made public, we have learned that the 9 countries in the Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA) region, which have some of the world’s highest burden of drug-resistant TB, are excluded from this deal.
We remain concerned that J&J retains the global authority to determine access to lifesaving generic versions of bedaquiline in countries with a high burden of TB, even after the expiration of the main patent next week. By continuing to pursue an extension of their monopoly on the drug in many countries, including 34 high-TB-burden countries where J&J still has a secondary patent on bedaquiline, J&J is maintaining control over countries’ ability to offer more people the treatments they need to stay alive and healthy.
We reiterate our call on J&J to publicly announce it will not enforce any secondary patents on bedaquiline in any country with a high burden of TB, and withdraw and abandon all pending secondary patent applications for this lifesaving drug. If J&J does not do so, we urge all countries excluded from this new deal to exercise their rights under international trade rules and override any J&J patents on bedaquiline, such as through the issuance of a compulsory license to freely manufacture or import generic bedaquiline.
Only by taking these actions will J&J truly demonstrate a commitment to improving global access to bedaquiline, and prioritizing the health needs of people most affected by this deadly disease, over profits accrued through secondary patents.”