Belarus: Open Letter: Urgent action by Johnson & Johnson needed to improve equitable access to bedaquiline-based regimens in all countries with a high burden of tuberculosis
In a proactive step this week, the national tuberculosis (TB) programme (NTP) of Belarus sent this open letter to the pharmaceutical corporation Johnson & Johnson (J&J) requesting urgent action to improve equitable access to the lifesaving TB drug bedaquiline in Belarus, and all other countries with a high burden of TB.
Specifically, they called for a public commitment from J&J to not enforce any secondary patents on bedaquiline, including on the fumarate salt or any other versions of the drug; and to not pursue any legal action against generic manufacturers that export bedaquiline to countries where these patents have been granted. The NTP further demanded J&J to withdraw and abandon all pending secondary patent applications related to the drug.
While TB activists and civil society have written similar letters to J&J making similar demands, it is noteworthy that this is the first instance of a country TB programme taking a firm stance and demanding J&J grant freedom of access to more affordable generic versions of bedaquiline.
The letter was sent 11 July 2023, two days prior to an announcement made by the Stop TB Partnership/Global Drug Facility (GDF) about a deal with J&J, for access to generic bedaquiline to a limited number of countries. As of 14 July 2023, 6:00 PM CET, Belarus’s NTP remains uncertain about their inclusion in the GDF/J&J deal.