In recent days, beloved American writer, John Green has taken to social media to expose the injustice perpetuated by recent patenting decisions by medical and pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson. In the post, Green called out J&J for renewing a twenty-year patent that was set to expire this month. The extended patent will monopolize the treatment and deny drug access to thousands according to Green.
J&J’s patent is on the drug bedaquiline which was approved in 2012 by the FDA to treat drug-resistant TB. However, since the initial creation of the drug in 2003, J&J has maintained a patent on the formular, preventing any generic versions to be produced.
In 2007, the formula was slightly altered with an additive and a new patent was created. Instead of honoring the original patent that would expire in 2023, J&J opted to hold out until the expiry date of the 2007 patent, preventing generic versions of the drug for another four years. This motion was denied by the United States government, however, other countries allowed it and still don’t have access to more affordable alternatives. In his post, Green explains that in the 4 years the patent is extended, six million people who should have access to a generic TB medication will not, and that most of those people will die.
It is estimated that a generic version of the medication would cost an estimated 60% less than the J&J branded one.
After John Green’s initial post, the news took off across social media platforms with many activists and influencers calling out J&J for violating their brand credo and denying millions of accessible medications.
Within days, J&J adjusted its trajectory and took a step toward inclusivity and accessibility as they partnered with the Stop TB Partnership. On Thursday, July 13th, J&J granted them access to tender, procure and supply the generic form of bedaquiline to low to middle-income countries.
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