South Africa and Colombia Seek To Acquire Cheaper TB and HIV Medicines

Among the nations attempting to pressure pharmaceutical companies to allow cheaper versions of medications for fatal illnesses are South Africa and Colombia. The medications are intended for patients with HIV/AIDS and drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis (TB). Bedaquiline is one such medication. It is used to treat tuberculosis patients who are resistant to drugs. Over 50,000 deaths in South Africa were attributed to tuberculosis (TB) in 2021, making it the biggest cause of mortality in the nation. Johnson is an American pharmaceutical and medical technology corporation. The medication bedaquiline is patented by the business. A company’s legal right to produce and market a product it produced or temporarily had is safeguarded by a patent.


Activists have been opposing Johnson & Johnson’s attempts to defend its patent in recent months. TB patients requested in March that the Indian government provide a less expensive version of bedaquiline. The authorities concurred, stating that Johnson & Johnson’s patent might be violated. Johnson & Johnson’s patent on the medication expired in South Africa in July. According to South African legislation, the company extended the patent until 2027. But, infuriated, protestors charged Johnson & Johnson with attempting to profit handsomely from the medication. Then, the South African authorities started looking into the pricing strategies of the business. South Africa had been spending roughly $282 for each course of treatment, or the entire set of therapies.


About a week after the South African probe got underway in September, Johnson & Johnson declared that it would stop enforcing its patent in more than 130 nations. This would allow other medicine manufacturers in those nations to replicate the substance. Doctors Without Borders has a TB specialist named Christophe Perrin. The choice, in his words, was “a big surprise.” According to him, the majority of pharmaceutical corporations strategically intend to protect their patents.

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