While tuberculosis (TB) is often considered a disease of the past, more people die from TB each year than from any other infectious disease, except for HIV/AIDS. An estimated one-third of the world's population is infected by TB bacteria, though most are not yet contagious or ill. In 2013, 9 million people fell ill from TB, and 1.5 million people died from it. Of those suffering from TB, one million are children, and about 200 children under the age of 15 die from TB every day, as estimated by the World Health Organization.
“This is not acceptable, especially when we have the tools to help prevent such suffering among this vulnerable population,” said Dr. Paul Stoffels, M.D., Chief Scientific Officer and Worldwide Chairman, Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson, at the end of 2014.
While the majority of TB cases can be cured by taking a series of four treatments for 6-9 months, the standard anti-TB drugs are decades old and resistance to them is increasingly widespread. Resistance develops most often when necessary procedures are not followed – whether it’s improper diagnosis, patients not taking the complete course of treatment or doctors offering insufficient care. As a result, multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) – TB infections resistant to at least two of the standard four-drug TB regimen – has emerged as a global health threat. In 2013, an estimated 480,000 people developed MDR-TB; only 97,000 people received treatment.
Paul Stoffels and Rajiv Shah, Administrator of USAID
In 2014, the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson engaged with both new and longstanding partners in the global health community to address the MDR-TB epidemic. Spearheading the effort is the Janssen Global Public Health Group. Launched in January 2014 to complement Janssen’s groundbreaking science, this group develops innovative strategies to address the world’s greatest unmet public health needs – including MDR-TB – by improving access to medicines, fostering collaboration and supporting solutions to sustainably advance health worldwide.
“We are engaging in pioneering partnerships with likeminded stakeholders invested in global public health to combat the scourge of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis. Our work is far from over,” said Dr. Stoffels.
Expanding Access to Anti-TB Medicines
In April 2014, Janssen committed to expand access to its TB treatment through an agreement with the Stichting International Dispensary Association (IDA), a procurement agent for the Stop TB Partnership’s Global Drug Facility (GDF). Through this partnership, more than 130 low- and middle-income countries will be able to obtain this medicine.
Building on this agreement, in December 2014, Janssen signed a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to contribute an estimated $30 million worth of its TB treatment – about 30,000 courses – and to collaborate with USAID, implementing partners and national TB programs to ensure responsible access to and use of the treatment.
Dr. Paul Stoffels with Paul Farmer Ph.D., MD, Kolokotrones University Professor of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Co-founder and Chief Strategist, Partners In Health.
Company Leaders Visit South Africa
In August 2014, Alex Gorsky, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Johnson & Johnson, and Dr. Paul Stoffels traveled to South Africa, which has a very high incidence of MDR-TB and extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB). During this visit, they met with several patients who were being treated for XDR-TB patients, including Chandre Heaton, a bright young woman who was finishing her treatment and waiting to go home. After 24 weeks of treatment, Chandre shared “I am healthy, I feel healthy and much better and my sputum has converted and stayed negative since April 2014.”
Grant to New TB Program at Harvard Medical School
In September 2014, Janssen announced a new collaboration with the Harvard Medical School to combat MDR-TB, with the ultimate vision of a world with zero TB deaths. The partnership will support a two-year state-of-the-art research, policy and advocacy program to improve access to TB diagnosis and treatment for the world’s most vulnerable communities, with addressing drug-resistant TB in children a top priority.
iWHO. Global Tuberculosis Report 2014. Available at http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/137094/1/9789241564809_eng.pdf?ua=1. Accessed February 2015.
iiPub Med. Provisional CDC guidelines for the use and safety monitoring of bedaquiline fumarate (Sirturo) for the treatment of multidrug resistant tuberculosis. 2013;62(RR-09):1-12. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24157696. Accessed February 2015.
iiiWHO. Tuberculosis country profiles. Available at http://www.who.int/tb/country/data/profiles/en/. Accessed February 2015.
ivStoffels, Paul. "The Preventable Disease We Should All Be Fighting Against." The Huffington Post. Available at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-stoffels/preventable-disease-we-should-fight_b_5811778.html. Accessed February 2015.