Johnson & Johnson under investigation in South Africa over ‘excessive’ drug prices

APE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — U.S.-based pharmaceuticals company Johnson & Johnson is being investigated in South Africa for allegedly charging “excessive” prices for a key tuberculosis drug, the country’s antitrust regulator said Friday.

J&J’s Belgium-based subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals is also under investigation, South Africa’s Competition Commission said.

The commission, which regulates business practices, said it opened the investigation this week based on information that the companies “may have engaged in exclusionary practices and excessive pricing” of the tuberculosis drug bedaquiline, which is sold under the brand name Sirturo.

The Competition Commission declined to give further details of its investigation, but health advocacy groups in South Africa say the country is being charged more than twice as much for bedaquiline than other middle- and low-income countries.

Bedaquiline was approved in 2012 and is used to treat drug-resistant TB. It is desperately-needed by South Africa, where the infectious disease is the leading cause of death, killing more than 50,000 people in 2021. South Africa has more than 7 million people living with HIV, more than any other country in the world. The World Health Organization says that nearly one-third of deaths among people who have HIV/AIDS are due to tuberculosis.

Globally, TB cases increased in 2021 for the first time in years, according to the WHO.

J&J has previously faced calls to drop its prices for bedaquiline and said last month that it would provide a six-month course of the drug for one patient through the Stop TB Partnerships Global Drug Facility at a cost of $130.

The South African government purchases its bedaquiline directly from J&J and Janssen and not through the Stop TB facility and was paying around $280 for a six-month course for a patient, according to Professor Norbert Ndjeka, who leads the national department of health’s TB control and management.

Source: Big Pharma’s Johnson & Johnson under investigation in South Africa over ‘excessive’ drug prices | AP News

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