AUSTIN, Texas — On August 1, 2022, global health organizations Unitaid, the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) and MedAccess signed two agreements with drug manufacturers Macleods Pharmaceutical Ltd. and Lupin Limited to lower the price of Tuberculosis (TB) treatment. The global health agreements on the Tuberculosis treatment price will lower the cost of rifapentine-based treatments such as 1HP and 3HP that prevent TB in low and middle-income countries. According to the agreements, “the new prices will be available in 138 low and middle-income countries,” which also includes “those with the highest burden of Tuberculosis (TB) globally.” Currently, TB is the second leading cause of death globally in terms of infectious diseases. In 2020, 1.5 million people around the world died because of TB.
The two new agreements between the global health organizations and the drug manufacturers highlight the progress to tackle infectious diseases amidst monkeypox and COVID-19. One of the main concerns of citizens in developing countries is the high cost of life-saving treatments such as 1HP and 3HP which hinders access to cures. With billions of people around the world infected with TB, lowering the price of 1HP and 3HP will contribute to mitigating the spread of TB. These agreements could also inspire further agreements on other life-saving treatments for low and middle-income countries, which could protect global health for the next generations.
Tuberculosis: Symptoms and How it Spreads
TB is caused by a bacteria that “usually attacks the lungs,” but can also “attack any part of the body such as the kidney, spine and brain,” according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The symptoms of TB include chest pain, coughing blood and “a bad cough that lasts 3 weeks or longer.” People infected with TB can also experience fever, lack of appetite and even “sweating at night,” according to CDC.
TB is mainly spread “through the air from one person to another.” The global health agreements on the Tuberculosis treatment price will help weaken the spread of TB by giving more people access to 1HP and 3HP through lower prices.
Details of the Agreement and Why it is Important
The global health agreements on the Tuberculosis treatment price allow for “a full course treatment of 300mg rifapentine and 300mg isoniazid tablets, taken once daily for one month” under the 1HP regimen for $19.50. The Global Drug Facility will facilitate access to the 1HP regimen. As for the 3HP regimen treatment, Lupin will “make a fixed-dose combination of rifapentine and isoniazid” that patients will take once a week for three months at $14.25, according to Devex.
According to Unitaid, 5% to 10% of people around the world “will develop active TB in their lifetime” if they do not receive treatment. These agreements will help save the lives of these people.
Remaining Obstacles to Eradicating Tuberculosis
The Global Health Agreements on the Tuberculosis treatment price doesn’t solve all of the problems in tackling TB. Experts on TB are saying that one of the remaining obstacles is not having the ability to conduct preventive therapy with household contacts who “are at a high risk of developing active TB,” according to Devex.
Household contacts are oftentimes hesitant to take any medicine or engage in treatments thinking that they are healthy. TB experts say that preventive therapy with household contacts “can make a significant impact” in slowing the spread of TB globally.
Despite some remaining issues with the two agreements, it is still an important achievement in the fight to save people from TB, the second leading cause of death globally in terms of infectious diseases. The back-to-back pandemics of COVID-19 and monkeypox have worried many people around the world who are feeling increasingly unsafe given the reported deaths from these diseases. That is why these two agreements are important for two reasons. First, it cuts the cost of TB treatment to under $20, which means more access to life-saving health care. Second, it shows a willingness from the pharmaceutical industry and the medical community to put an end to the spread of infectious diseases. That means infectious diseases could be less common in the future.
– Abdullah Dowaihy