Drugs Pharma

Medicines to treat drug-resistant TB highly expensive for poor patients

Lupin Pharma

HQ Team

November 10, 2022: People residing in poor countries find access to quality health and medicine services highly difficult. Medécins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) says in a report that patent holders and big drug manufacturers set the prices too high for poor people to be able to afford it.

Newer Tuberculosis medications – bedaquiline and delamanid – are a case in point. These newer TB medicines are better treatments for people with drug resistant forms of the disease. These medicines are going off patent in 2023, but despite that, the manufacturers’ efforts to make them more widely available are being prevented because the prices are kept high.

A survey ‘DR-TB Drugs Under the Microscope’ conducted by MSF found that extremely high prices were still being charged for newer TB drugs; hampering treatment scale-up in African countries where tuberculosis has made a reappearance. In Nigeria, the Ministry of Health said the country recorded “no fewer than 207,000 cases of TB in 2021, and 12,977 of them were children.” There was a 50 per cent increase in TB notification, from 138,591 confirmed cases in 2020 to 207,785 in 2021.

 Pharmaceutical companies behind the medicine, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and Otsuka, have a global monopoly that blocks other manufacturers from replicating for easier distribution. Though the patents expire in 2023 some hurdles still persist, including secondary patents that extend the term of the monopoly for J&J and Otsuka in several countries; and opaque and restrictive licenses that undermine competition.

The statement from MSF also said that, “generic manufacturers require samples of the originator product (i.e. delamanid or bedaquiline) in order to conduct the studies necessary to bring quality-assured generic medicines to market. However, pharmaceutical corporations generally do not make their products available for such studies.” 

Medications for Drug-resistant TB are said to cost 10 to 30 times more than the non-resistant type. According to research, MSF says, delamanid is a shocking 13-18 times more expensive than it could be; ranging from US$1,250 to $1,700 for a 6-month treatment course, when it could be priced at $96. Bedaquiline is almost three times more expensive than it could be, at $270 for a 6-month treatment course when it could be $102.

“Bedaquiline, delamanid, and pretomanid are game-changing TB drugs that could help save many more lives, so everyone with DR-TB should be able to access them,” said Christophe Perrin, TB advocacy pharmacist with MSF’s Access Campaign. “Drug corporations should not put their profits over people’s lives. It’s time for all three newer TB drugs to be affordable.”

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