Tuberculosis (TB), despite being preventable and curable, continues to claim more than a million lives each year. Our aim to enable a world without TB has for more than 20 years guided our investment in developing an innovative treatment, expanding access and improving TB-related healthcare capacity. This investment includes our 10-year initiative, announced in 2018, to combat TB, and a further commitment of $500 million to advance TB and HIV innovation over four years, starting in 2019.
The achievement of our TB Health for Humanity 2020 Goals is a significant milestone. We continue to set ambitious targets as we progress toward eliminating this disease.
Our progress in advancing and partnering to tackle TB in 2020 includes:
FDA approval of bedaquiline for children aged 5 and older: The FDA has approved SIRTURO (bedaquiline) as part of combination therapy for the treatment of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB MDR-TB Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis ) in infected children aged 5 years and older weighing at least 15 kg. This new 20 mg formulation allows for dispersal in water for those unable to swallow pills and represents an important step in modernizing pediatric therapies for some of the most vulnerable MDR-TB patients.
As the world responds to COVID-19, it is critical that we don’t just fight the new pandemic but act decisively to mitigate the knock-on impact on other diseases, protecting lifesaving programs and shoring up overstretched health systems. This new bedaquiline access agreement offers an opportunity to save more lives through scaling up more effective treatment of a difficult-to-treat and deadly disease.
Supporting the uptake of recommended MDR-TB treatment: Johnson & Johnson and the Stop TB Partnership joined forces to scale up use of bedaquiline in an effort to accelerate global implementation of the 2019 WHO WHO World Health Organization treatment guidelines. These guidelines recommend the inclusion of bedaquiline in all-oral treatment regimens, thus enabling home-based care and helping protect the safety of drug-resistant TB patients, a critical measure during the COVID-19 pandemic. To facilitate this, we made bedaquiline available to the Stop TB Partnership’s Global Drug Facility at a reduced price per six-month treatment course for more than 135 eligible countries, including an escalating percentage of free goods when certain volume thresholds are reached on an annual basis.
Current tools are insufficient for accelerating and sustaining global progress against TB. Innovative partnerships, such as the PAN-TB collaboration, are urgently needed to develop new drugs and treatment regimens that can address TB and advance progress towards achieving global elimination TB goals.
New collaboration to treat TB: We were the founding members of the Project to Accelerate New Treatments for Tuberculosis (PAN-TB collaboration), a consortium of philanthropic, nonprofit and private sector organizations aiming to accelerate the development of novel “pan-TB” drug regimens. The regimens will be designed to have little to no drug resistance and an acceptable safety profile, and be better-tolerated, shorter in duration and simpler to use than existing options. Together with PAN-TB collaboration members, we committed to leveraging our resources and scientific expertise to advance the development of such new treatments that will address the current complexities and challenges of tackling TB.
TB initiatives during COVID-19: With the COVID-19 pandemic creating acute challenges for TB patients and access to treatment, we advanced several initiatives to maintain and enhance access to MDR-TB treatment during 2020. For example, our Global Public Health and JLABS JLABS Johnson & Johnson Innovation—JLABS teams launched the Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis (DR-TB) Lifeline QuickFire Challenge to generate solutions to help ensure continuity of care for DR-TB patients. Read more about this in the section United in Defeating COVID-19: Addressing Patient Needs.
Patient finding: We have supported the MTV Staying Alive Foundation to launch a first-of-its-kind “edutainment” campaign called MTV Nishedh to raise awareness and reduce stigma around TB among young people in India, as a way to encourage those with TB symptoms to seek care. MTV Nishedh demonstrated the reality of living with TB through TV, radio and online content, reaching nearly 200 million people in India and directing more than 100,000 viewers to the National TB helpline. In China, we are also working with the National Health Commission and the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention to improve MDR-TB case detection rates, covering 10 million people in poverty-stricken regions.
Preventing TB in cities: We support the Harvard Medical School and other members in the ambitious Zero TB Initiative that aims to create "islands of elimination" that will contribute to lowering rates of TB in cities. In 2020, using its “Search-Treat-Prevent” strategy in 31 cities across high-burden countries, the Zero TB Initiative continued to lay the foundation for TB elimination, as well as care delivery for other infectious and non-communicable diseases.
Educating healthcare professionals: In the Philippines, Johnson & Johnson and local partners, supported by the Union, a global organization working to improve health in low- and middle-income countries, launched the TB Academy, an online learning platform aimed to further the education of Filipino healthcare practitioners and specialists in treating MDR-TB. The TB Academy program consists of three certification training levels for clinical officers and nurses, clinicians and DR-TB experts.