South Africa Investigates US Pharmaceutical Company Johnson & Johnson for Excessive Pricing of Tuberculosis Drug

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Johnson & Johnson (J&J) is being investigated in South Africa for allegedly charging “excessive” pricing for a critical tuberculosis treatment, according to the country’s antitrust commission.

J&J has already faced calls to lower bed aquiline rates and announced last month that it would provide a six-month course of therapy for one patient through the Stop TB Partnership’s Global Medicines Facility for $130. Ndjeka said.

The Commission, which regulates marketing practices, announced this week that it had launched an investigation based on claims that the companies “may have engaged in exclusionary practices and excessive pricing” of bed aquiline, a tuberculosis medicine sold under the brand name Sirturo.

The probe comes just a week after a health advocacy group revealed details of South Africa’s COVID-19 vaccine procurement contracts with several pharmaceutical corporations, including J&J and Pfizer from the United States of America.

South Africa urgently requires Bed aquiline for the treatment of tuberculosis since this infectious disease is the main cause of death, accounting for more than 50,000 deaths in 2021. Bed aquiline was licensed in 2012 for the treatment of drug-resistant tuberculosis in South Africa.

According to the World Health Organisation, TB accounts for nearly one-third of all fatalities among people living with HIV/AIDS. South Africa has more HIV-positive persons than any other country in the world, with over 7 million.

Professor Norbert Ndjeka, who leads tuberculosis management and control within the national Ministry of Health, noted that the South African government purchases bed aquiline directly from J&J and Janssen rather than through the TB scheme, and pays about $280 for a six-month course of treatment for one patient.

The Competition Commission declined to provide any information on its probe, but health groups in South Africa claim that bed aquiline is more than twice as expensive as in other middle- or low-income countries.

According to the health group’s contracts, J&J charged South Africa 15% more for a vaccination dosage than it did the considerably wealthier European Union also required a non-refundable deposit of $27.5 million.

J&J reported record revenue of $94.9 billion last year in 2022.

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