Ahead of the first-ever United Nations (UN) High-Level Meeting on Tuberculosis (TB), Johnson & Johnson announced a comprehensive 10-year initiative in support of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal target of ending the TB pandemic by 2030. With the goal of saving an estimated 1.8 million lives and preventing 12 million new TB infections in the next decade, Johnson & Johnson will work with partners to improve detection of undiagnosed cases of TB, broaden access to its novel medicine for multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB), and accelerate research & development (R&D) to discover next-generation TB treatments.
“TB is the worlds number one infectious killer, and TB and MDR-TB cause major devastation for people, communities and entire countries around the world,” says Paul Stoffels, MD, Vice Chairman of the Executive Committee and Chief Scientific Officer at Johnson & Johnson. “The good news is TB is both preventable and treatable, and Johnson & Johnson is committed to doing everything we can to create a world free from TB. This new initiative will unleash the power of science and technology to forever change the trajectory of TB.”
Every year, 10 million people fall ill with tuberculosis and approximately 1.6 million people die from the disease. TB is difficult to diagnose, and many of the drugs used today have had historically low cure rates and can lead to debilitating and even fatal side effects. Further, the disease is developing resistance to first-line medicines. Drug-resistant TB (DR-TB) now accounts for approximately one-third of deaths from antimicrobial resistance (AMR), making TB the single largest cause of AMR-related deaths. There is growing consensus that new innovations are urgently needed in order to end the TB pandemic.
This new, comprehensive initiative builds on Johnson & Johnson’s significant investments over two decades in the discovery, development and delivery of bedaquiline, the company’s medicines for the treatment of pulmonary MDR-TB in adults (≥ 18 years of age). When bedaquiline was conditionally approved by the FDA in 2012, it was the first targeted TB medicine with a novel mechanism of action in more than 40 years. Today, it is approved in 56 countries, including those with the highest TB burdens. As part of the company’s commitment to ensure access to bedaquiline for patients who need it, Johnson & Johnson has provided nearly 70,000 courses of treatment to patients in 107 countries.
“Bedaquiline is a significant breakthrough in addressing the scourge of MDR-TB, and we are confident we can build on our innovation, our know-how and our network of committed global collaborators to do even more,” says Jaak Peeters, Global Head, Johnson & Johnson Global Public Health, Janssen-Cilag GmbH. “Our goal is to end the TB epidemic forever by finding and treating patients all over the world.”
Improving Detection of MDR-TB in High-Burden Countries
Every year, approximately 4 million cases of TB – including hundreds of thousands of cases of MDR-TB – go undiagnosed, posing a risk to patients and public health security. As part of its new initiative, Johnson & Johnson is forging new strategic collaborations aimed at finding undiagnosed patients.
The first of these is a new, never-before-announced partnership with Cepheid, a molecular diagnostics company that developed and manufactures the GeneXpert® System for TB. Janssen Pharmaceutica N.V., one of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, and Cepheid will partner in India to train healthcare professionals to improve patient referrals for TB diagnosis and treatment. Further, they will partner in China to improve access to molecular tests for high-risk populations and train healthcare professionals on TB diagnosis and treatment.
Ensuring Affordable Access to Novel MDR-TB Treatment
Johnson & Johnson is also reinforcing its commitment to expand affordable access to bedaquiline to all eligible people with MDR-TB by offering a non-commercial, special-effort price for more than 130 low- and middle-income countries, as well as non-governmental organizations, procuring through the Stop TB Partnership’s Global Drug Facility.
The special-effort price was announced in July in recognition of South Africa’s leadership in the fight against TB and extended to additional countries to help catalyze further action against MDR-TB. In June, South Africa became the first country to recommend an injection-free, bedaquiline-containing regimen for all eligible MDR-TB patients. The special-effort price covers the cost of manufacturing and critically important efforts focused on strengthening health system capacity and ensuring safe and appropriate use of bedaquiline in high-burden countries.
Accelerating R&D to Discover Innovative TB Treatments
Additionally, Johnson & Johnson is building on its track record of successful therapeutic innovation for tuberculosis by significantly accelerating the development of next generation treatments and regimens for children and adults suffering from TB or MDR-TB.
Both internally and through research collaborations with India’s Institute of Microbial Technology and other leading research institutions, the Janssen Pharmceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson will:
- Conduct pediatric studies for a bedaquiline-containing regimen for the treatment of children infected with MDR-TB,
- Advance a potential next-generation triple-drug regimen to treat and cure people suffering from MDR-TB with the aim of reducing the burden of treatment,
- Advance a potential universal, fast-acting TB regimen to treat and cure all forms of TB, whether drug-sensitive or drug-resistant, and
- Conduct early research into the potential of TB medicines to prevent latent TB infection from becoming active by intercepting and treating this dormant form of the disease.
* GeneXpert® is a trademark of Cepheid.