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Global Public Health
The Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson Partner on an Ambitious Tuberculosis Program in India
The Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson Partner on an Ambitious Tuberculosis Program in India
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Jaak Peeters, Head of Johnson & Johnson’s Global Public Health organization

There is a cliché that says there can never be too much of a good thing. The looming crisis of antimicrobial resistance is proof this cliché is wrong.

Your doctor is happy to give you antibiotics because they help you feel better, and you don’t mind taking them because the side effects are minimal. The problem is that overuse of antibiotics has negative long-term consequences for everybody.

People take antibiotics so routinely that bacteria are developing resistance to them—and they’re developing that resistance faster than we can develop new medicines. Fighting the dramatic increase in antimicrobial resistance is a top priority in global health—and for Johnson & Johnson—because if we don’t address the problem, our best drugs will become useless to fight diseases.


Antimicrobial Resistance Could Kill More People Than Cancer

That’s been happening with tuberculosis, a disease that struck 9.6 million and killed 1.5 million people in 2014. The usual TB treatment regimen is long and complicated, so many people do not finish their full course, raising the chances that resistance will develop.

An increasing number of TB cases are what are known as MDR or XDR (multi drug-resistant or extensively drug-resistant). In addition to posing the biggest threat to the future success of the global TB response, MDR-TB could be one of the main drivers of antimicrobial resistance, which could kill more people than cancer by 2050. As a result, one of the key goals of Johnson & Johnson’s global public health strategy is to eliminate MDR- and XDR-TB.

To achieve this goal, we must work with governments, doctors and patients worldwide to reach the most vulnerable people with new medicines in a way that safeguards those medicines’ effectiveness for future generations. This is particularly important in high disease-burden countries such as India, which carries one-quarter of the global TB burden. Unfortunately, less than half of the MDR cases in India last year were treated successfully.

That’s why, through Janssen India, one of the pharmaceutical companies of Johnson & Johnson, we are proud to be joining an innovative partnership program to accelerate progress against MDR- and XDR-TB in the country.


A Multi-Pronged Approach to Combat the Problem

First, through the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Program (RNTCP), we are providing conditional access to a new medicine for MDR-TB, which has a novel mechanism of action and is used as part of combination therapy when an effective treatment regimen cannot otherwise be provided.

For now, this medicine will be given for free to approximately 600 patients in six national hospitals under a program that focuses on appropriate use that will not lead to the development of further resistance. Once the outcome data from this program is available, the partners will work together to expand access more broadly across India.

Second, we are working with a wide range of partners, including municipal authorities, The Union, and a range of NGOs, to improve treatment outcomes across the country. This includes raising disease awareness among the public and training primary health care providers to manage TB and MDR-TB effectively.

We also are working to make newer, quicker diagnostic technologies available to reduce treatment delays, and supporting nutrition supplementation programs that ensure patients respond optimally to treatment.

These efforts are consistent with actions required at a global level to combat antimicrobial resistance. Earlier this year, Johnson & Johnson signed onto an historic global declaration to promote the need to combat this global threat.

The worst outcome imaginable is introducing a new treatment that could help patients with MDR-TB only to see TB develop resistance to it. This partnership with India’s RNTCP is an important step in ensuring that Indians have an effective weapon against drug resistant TB for generations to come.

Ultimately, the goal is to make sure that millions of people have an opportunity to build better futures for themselves and their children.

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