A letter to Johnson & Johnson
Alex Gorsky, Chairman and CEO
Johnson & Johnson
1 Johnson & Johnson Plaza New Brunswick, NJ 08933, USA
Jennifer Taubert, Executive Vice President, Worldwide Chairman, Pharmaceuticals
Ana-Maria Ionescu, Global Marketing Leader TB, Global Public Health
Dr Adrian Thomas, Vice President, Global Public Health and Access
Dear Mr Gorsky,
As the world grapples with the global pandemic of COVID-19, we, as Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), are deeply concerned about the serious risk to people with tuberculosis (TB). We are therefore writing to follow-up on our unanswered letter to Dr. Paul Stoffels from September 2018 regarding the need to secure an affordable and sustainable supply of the lifesaving TB drug bedaquiline. A copy of the letter is attached for your reference.
If infected, people with respiratory issues and lung damage, such as TB patients, are more likely to develop the more severe COVID-19 disease. Reducing this risk among people with TB through effective and timely TB treatment is more vital than ever before. Given the World Health Organization’s (WHO) March 2019 guidance recommending bedaquiline as a core drug to treat drug-resistant TB (DR-TB), the poor level of access to this lifesaving drug can no longer be accepted.
The current high price of bedaquiline remains a significant barrier to countries’ efforts to scale-up access to this drug. Since the launch of bedaquiline in 2012, just over 51,000 people had received the drug for treatment of DR-TB as of December 31, 2019. This is less than 15% of people with DR-TB that could have benefitted from treatment with bedaquiline.
Since the WHO recommendations for bedaquiline were issued, the benefits of the drug for people with DR-TB have become even more apparent. Data presented by MSF and our partners at the 50th Union World Conference on Lung Health from the endTB Observational Study, the largest multi-country prospective cohort of patients receiving bedaquiline and/or delamanid, showed a 77.6% favourable outcome for 1,082 patients with 27 months of follow up across 17 countries.
on the health system during this pandemic and facilitating social distancing to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Recognizing the increased risks posed by COVID-19 disease to people with TB, we request that J&J take all possible efforts to minimize the impact of this pandemic on this population.
This includes ensuring that bedaquiline is affordable and accessible for those who need it. In addition to lowering the price in order to benefit as many people with DR-TB as possible, a lower price would also better reflect the myriad financial and research contributions that went into the drug’s development. These contributions include funding from governments and philanthropies that went into the development of bedaquiline as well as from the TB community, Ministries of Health, and treatment implementers, including MSF, that have contributed to the evidence base that informs today’s use of the drug.
MSF therefore stands with over 117,000 petition signatories worldwide to call on J&J to take urgent steps to ensure affordable access to bedaquiline and bring its price down to ‘a dollar a day’ for everyone who needs it to survive.
We would appreciate J&J’s response to the attached letter at your earliest convenience.