TB survivors challenge patent extension for latest drug

• Two tuberculosis survivors from India and South Africa have challenged a patent held by pharmaceutical giant Johnson and Johnson (J&J), to prevent the firm from extending its monopoly on bedaquiline, one of the two latest drugs, to combat the disease.

• Mumbai’s Nandita Venkatesan and Cape Town’s Phumeza Tisile, both survived drug resistant TB but lost their hearing because of the toxicity of drugs used.

• They are now advocating for a wider rollout of newer drugs like bedaquiline over older forms of treatment, including painful injections and drugs with severe side effects.

For affordable treatment

• “With this patent challenge, we want to stop an extension of the patent monopoly that will continue to block people from accessing more affordable generic versions of bedaquiline,” Ms. Venkatesan said in a statement.

• The patent challenge has been filed with support from Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

• “J and J recently announced a reduced price of $400 for six months of bedaquiline treatment for South Africa and countries procuring the drug through the Global Drug Facility, but this falls short of making the drug affordable in all countries affected by the DR-TB epidemic,” a statement from the MSF said.

• The statement also said the J and J patent application being challenged is for the salt form of bedaquiline, which does not merit patenting under India’s patent law. If granted, J&J’s monopoly on bedaquiline would be extended from 2023 to 2027, delaying entry of generics by four additional years.

‘Donating doses’

• The company was committed to ensuring that bedaquiline reaches as many patients as possible.

• The spokesperson added that since the introduction of bedaquiline in India, the firm has donated more than 10,000 courses to support the government’s efforts to scale up access.

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Mains Paper 2: Governance

Prelims level: TB survivors challenge

Mains level: Health related issues

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