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Countries and donors must do more to ensure all people with TB have access; further price reductions for newer medicines required

NEW YORK, NY – June 19, 2018 Treatment Action Group (TAG) welcomes the announcement  from the Stop TB Partnership’s Global Drug Facility (GDF) that new agreements have substantially lowered the price of medicines used to treat tuberculosis (TB).1 The GDF estimates that USD 31 million will be saved as a result.

These dramatic cost savings must be put into diagnosing and treating more patients, as the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that only 26% of cases of drug-resistant TB are diagnosed (153,119 out of an estimated 600,000 incident cases in 2016), and only about 21% are enrolled in treatment (129,869). It is unacceptable that with the advent of innovations for diagnosing and treating drug-resistant TB, 79% of patients with drug-resistant TB go without treatment, and among those who are treated, only 54% are cured.

TAG urges Ministries of Health and other providers to capitalize on these savings by purchasing TB commodities through the GDF, which by contract offers the lowest price for products. Regardless of whether they use donor funding or domestic financing, all purchasers can and should buy through the GDF, to ensure access to quality-assured products at the lowest price. Countries whose national procurement policies and practices do not allow for purchasing through pooled mechanisms such as the GDF should update them, and donors such as the Global Fund must include support for such work as part of their co-financing and transition policies.

We also note that the cost of a WHO-recommended shorter DR-TB treatment regimen is now as low as $571, closely approaching the Médecins sans Frontières target price of $500 per DR-TB regimen. However, this WHO-recommended regimen relies on toxic drugs rather than safer—and possibly more effective—newer drugs to treat DR-TB. We reiterate the call from 31 organizations and 27 TB survivors, community representatives, providers, and public health experts to WHO to recommend bedaquiline as part of the preferred regimen for treating drug-resistant TB.2 South Africa took a bold step in this direction when it became the first country to recommend an injection-free, bedaquiline-based regimen for all patients with tuberculosis resistant to rifampicin.3 Other countries should follow South Africa’s lead. Simultaneously, we urge developers of newer drugs, including Janssen/Johnson & Johnson (the maker of bedaquiline) and Otsuka (the developer of delamanid), to establish affordable global prices for their products that will allow their inclusion as part of a $500 drug-resistant TB regimen.

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