(Reuters) - Johnson & Johnson and Indian drugmaker Lupin will supply their versions of the tuberculosis drug bedaquiline at a significantly cheaper price in low- and middle-income countries, a global anti-tuberculosis group said on Wednesday.
The United Nations-backed Stop TB Partnership said J&J's new price of $130 and Lupin's price of $194 for a six-month course of the treatment represented a 55% and 33% price reduction, respectively.
Bedaquiline is one of the three new drugs developed against tuberculosis (TB) in more than half a century, and it is a key part of recommended treatment regimens for drug-resistant TB infections.
"This historic price reduction will broaden access to this life-saving drug and keep us on the path to end TB by 2030," said Atul Gawande, assistant administrator of the United States Agency for International Development's Global Health Bureau.
The drug will be available at the lower prices through the Stop TB Partnership's Global Drug Facility, which is the largest procurer of TB treatments.
J&J, which sells bedaquiline under the brand name Sirturo, reached an agreement with the Stop TB Partnership in July to allow the coalition to supply generic versions of the drug through the Global Drug Facility.
That agreement came after advocacy groups and author John Green criticized the healthcare conglomerate for its decision to enforce patents on the drug in many countries. J&J has said it is false to suggest its patents prevent access to the drug.
On Wednesday, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) or Doctors Without Borders said it welcomed the big price drop, adding that it "finally brings the price closer to the estimated generic price of $0.50 per day".
But J&J could further increase access to the drug by withdrawing its secondary patents on bedaquiline in all high-burden countries, said Christophe Perrin, TB advocacy pharmacist with MSF's Access Campaign.
(Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath)