Preventing TB: A Big Drug Price Cut Paves The Way For Global Scale-Up

Nic Bothma/EPA

By Gavin Churchyard

Lengthy negotiations ended in good news recently when the price of rifapentine, a lifesaving antibiotic, was marked down by 66% by its manufacturer Sanofi. When combined with another antibiotic (isoniazid), rifapentine can prevent tuberculosis (TB) disease. The move was announced at the Union World Conference on Lung Health in October 2019.

Talks to lower the price from US$45 to US$15 for a three-month course took more than a year to complete and involved Sanofi, Unitaid and the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, in collaboration with the Stop TB Partnership’s Global Drug Facility and the United States PEPFAR initiative.

Now we – those of us who have been working to bring preventive therapy to the people whose lives depend on it – must roll up our sleeves and make it happen.

Advocates have been pressing for the price of rifapentine to be lowered ever since scientific proof of its effectiveness was published in peer-reviewed journals. Three months of treatment with rifapentine plus isoniazid was shown to be just as effective and less toxic than one year of therapy with isoniazid alone (the previous standard). The reduction in treatment time alone provides an obvious improvement.

The obstacles to getting more people treated to begin with locating those at greatest risk and then expanding capacity in preventive treatment programmes to serve them.

Who needs the drug?

TB is one of the top ten causes of death from an infectious agent worldwide, killing approximately 1.5 million people in 2018. The disease hits especially hard in impoverished regions, were poorly ventilated and overcrowded living and working conditions, inadequate nutrition, the prevalence of other diseases like HIV, and insufficient or non-existent health care all make it far worse than it could be. Read more…


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