While tuberculosis (TB) is rarely seen in the developed world, it has become an epidemic in some developing nations, made worse by the increasing prevalence of multidrug-resistant (MDR) and extensively drug resistant (XDR) strains of the disease. According to the WHO, Eastern Europe is in the midst of a MDR-TB disaster with 30% of incident cases resistant to major therapies. Globally, 5% of TB cases in developing countries are MDR compared to 2% in developed countries.
Concerted public health initiatives are managing to get rampant MDR-TB under control in some countries, with Estonia as a poster child for using forced hospitalizations and quarantine treatment to dramatically counter the number of cases. However, such an extreme option is costly and lends more impetus to developing new drug therapies targeted specifically against MDR- and XDR-TB.
Johnson and Johnson's therapy Sirturo recently received accelerated FDA approval to treat MDR-TB and starting in the second quarter of 2013 will help to counter its rise in the developing world, bringing hope to thousands of patients suffering with such an intractable disease. Like other therapies targeting diseases largely confined to the developing world, Sirturo is not expected to be a large money-maker for J&J, but its launch will help drive goodwill for the company for future access in other therapeutic areas. We?re looking forward to seeing the impact Sirturo will have and are excited to continue monitoring the TB vaccines under development by Sanofi, GlaxoSmithKline and Aereas Global TB, among others.
Joseph Martinez is an Associate with the DRG Consulting group.
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Wall Street Journal: At Europe's Doorstep, Fierce War Against TB