A 66% price slash of a little used but powerful drug that prevents tuberculosis (TB) could help stave off the deadly lung disease in millions of people around the world.
Sanofi, a pharmaceutical company based in Paris, announced today it will sell the drug rifapentine at the steeply discounted price. The full course of preventive treatment with the drug will drop from $45 to $15. “This is a huge step forward,” says Gavin Churchyard, CEO of the Aurum Institute in Johannesburg, South Africa, a nonprofit that does TB and HIV care and research in several sub-Saharan African countries. “It’s such a momentous change.”
The World Health Organization estimates that about 25% of the people in the world are infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and although most will never transmit the bacteria or fall ill because of the infection, up to 15% will progress from “latent” to “active” disease. People with latent M. tuberculosis infections who are coinfected with HIV are more than 20 times as likely to develop TB. TB accounts for 1.5 million deaths globally each year, more than any other infectious disease; it is the No. 1 cause of death in South Africa, which is home to nearly 20% of the world’s 38 million HIV-infected people.