Following a public call out from a popular young adult books author and public disparagement on social media, Johnson and Johnson (J&J) has reached an agreement with the Stop TB partnership to license, tender, procure, and supply generic versions of bedaquiline.

The Stop TB partnership’s Global Drug Facility (GDF) will now be able to provide generic versions of bedaquiline, which is marketed as Sirturo for the majority of low- and middle-income countries, including those where the patent is still in effect. GDF will give updates on plans to launch a global competitive tender before the end of July.

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In a 12 July video titled “Barely Contained Rage: An Open Letter to Johnson & Johnson”, author and Youtuber John Green said: “Whilst the price of it [bedaquiline] has dropped over the last decade, it is still way too expensive for global communities.”

He highlighted that the 2003 patent for bedaquiline expires on 18 July 2023. However, J&J is exercising its second patent on the salt version of bedaquiline (bedaquiline fumarate), filed in 2007, to extend its market exclusivity for another four years in several countries.

The video garnered significant attention on the social media platform, leading to J&J defending itself against claims in a lengthy twitter statement the same day.

The company said: “It is false to suggest—as some recently have—that our patents are being used to prevent access to Sirturo.”

As of 12pm BST on 14 July, J&J’s tweet announcement sat at approximately 10.9 million views, 264 likes and 2,857 quotes.

A day later, the STOP TB partnership announced that following detailed negotiations with J&J, the company granted the non-profit to manufacture generic versions of the drug.

This issue has remained in the public consciousness for years with the charitable organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) issuing a press release back in 2019, pleading J&J to reduce the drug’s price to no more than $1 per day globally. This change would make the drug $600 per person for a full 20-month TB treatment course. In response to this, the pharmaceutical giant reduced the drug’s price to approximately $1,133 for a 20-month treatment.

Following the most recent news from Stop TB, MSF said more could still be done.

The US Food and Drug Administration first granted Sirturo accelerated approval for multi-drug resistant TB in December 2012, making it the first TB drug approved within a 40-year timespan. Since its approval, the therapy has been in pipeline development for new TB combination therapies.

Public discourse has seen a range of opinions on the matter in recent days with some feeling positively about J&J’s announcement while others felt more could be done.