Contact: Natalie Shure, email@example.com
October 2, 2023 – TAG is thrilled by this weekend’s announcement that following years of activist pressure, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has finally publicly committed to not enforcing its spurious secondary patents on bedaquiline in the treatment of drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB) in 134 low- and middle-income countries. Now that they’ve taken this important step, we urge J&J to formally withdraw all remaining secondary patents in these countries, so as to firmly and indisputably place the drug that is the cornerstone of DR-TB treatment into the public domain, where it has always belonged. We hope that robust generic manufacturing competition will soon follow, and result in broad global availability of bedaquiline at lower prices than ever before.
Expanding access to the best available TB treatments has long been a central focus of TB-affected communities. TAG has fought alongside the Global TB Community Advisory Board (TB CAB) and other allies for well over a decade to generate an evidence base, shape national guidelines, and push governments, funders, and manufacturers to take action to facilitate the universal implementation of shorter, more effective TB regimens made possible by the advent of bedaquiline and other key drugs. Johnson & Johnson’s announcement marks the second time in recent years that manufacturers have done the right thing and acceded to TB community demands, after Sanofi announced in 2020 that it wouldn’t defend patents on isoniazid and rifapentine formulations for short-course TB prevention.
Such decisions from J&J and Sanofi pave the way for people living with and at risk of TB to benefit from the highest standard of TB treatment and prevention, but pharmaceutical companies should never have had sole power to determine TB drug availability to begin with. These episodes underscore the need to place access conditions on the fruits of publicly funded research like bedaquiline, for which governments and philanthropies invested up to five times the amount J&J itself did, per one TAG analysis published in PLOS One. Taking such action at every step of the research, development, and implementation process to ensure that affected communities will benefit from innovations is the only way to realize the human right to scientific progress.