India to expand access to J&J’s TB drug this year
India’s top tuberculosis fighter said the government will expand access to Johnson & Johnson’s breakthrough TB drug this year, but health experts warn much more needs to be done to eliminate the superbug by 2025.
India will make bedaquiline, one of just two new TB drugs marketed over the last 50 years, available at 140 government-run TB treatment centers by November, said Sunil Kharpade, head of India’s Central TB Division. The drug is currently available at only six centers. “We’ve conducted training in several states in the last few months, and we’re prepared to start giving it to patients across 140 centers,” Kharpade told Reuters.
Health experts and activists welcomed the move, but said the government must do even more against TB, which claims the lives of thousands of Indians each year.
“India’s TB program has made a lot of progress in the last few years,” said Jennifer Furin, an infectious diseases expert at Harvard Medical School.
“But compared to what they need to do if they are serious about eliminating TB in eight short years, they have barely scratched the surface.”
India has nearly a quarter of the world’s TB cases, and poor infection control practices and a stressed public healthcare system make it a hotbed for spreading the drug-resistant bacteria. India has provided bedaquiline to only 300 patients, with another 300 courses available. There are plans to get treatment for 1,000 more patients in the next year, said Kharpade.
- Health Care