On Thursday pharmaceutical giant Sanofi, in partnership with Unitaid, announced an almost 70% drop in the price of the important tuberculosis (TB) prevention drug Rifapentine for 100 countries with significant TB epidemics including South Africa.
South Africa is also set to the first country where this preventive TB treatment will be implemented in a scaled-up national programme.
According to Sanofi’s Thibaud Lefort, who made the announcement at the 50th Union World Conference on Lung Health taking place in India, the most significant barrier to scaling up preventive TB treatment has been the price of drugs. The drop from 13.60 euros – about R230 – per pack of 24 tablets to 4.62 euros (approximately R78) equates to a 66% cut in cost. The price reduction has been extended to the public sectors of 100 low and middle-income countries with high TB burdens, including South Africa.
“South Africa is poised to implement the largest preventive programme [using rifapentine] to scale, not just a pilot, set to start in the second quarter of next year,” said Unitaid’s Robert Matiru.
The price drop is significant because there has been much criticism in the TB community regarding the lack of prevention efforts, which are needed to meet the global targets to eliminate the disease as a public health threat by 2030.
According to Jamie Tonsing, from The Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, the organisation responsible for the conference, “we have to scale up prevention to get to the goal”.
“Quite simply, we have to prevent wherever we can. We cannot end this epidemic if we do not prevent where we treat,” she said.
Said The Union’s executive director, Jose Luis Castro: “If we are to end the TB emergency, we need a TB revolution. It is indeed timely that we are seeing such promising movement on all facets of prevention – vaccines, drug prices and new drugs – now we need to ensure that going forward, preventing wherever we treat becomes the new normal.” – Health-e News