advocacy wins: a timeline of unexpected events 

By: Results Canada Published: 10/08/2023

In May of this year, author and online personality, John Green penned an op-ed in the Washington Post, titled “Why is a curable disease still allowed to kill million?” 

When Green first found out about tuberculosis (TB), his reaction mimicked that of many: “At the time, I had no idea that TB was the deadliest infectious disease in the world—I kind of thought of it as a disease of, like, 19th century British poets.” 

On June 11th, Green sent out a tweet giving twitter user @JNJNews a heads-up about an upcoming video.  

For those who may be unaware, @JNJNews is the public-facing twitter account run by Johnson & Johnson – the global pharmaceutical company behind Band-Aids, Tylenol, Neutrogena, Johnson’s Baby products and so much more. They also own the patent for bedaquiline, a drug known to treat TB. 

However, with the patent for bedaquiline reaching its expiration, many advocates fear J&J’s intentions to extend the ownership of it, thus continuing to keep this life-saving drug unaffordable and inaccessible to many. 

Following unanswered letters and publications from individuals and advocacy organizations, notably Doctors Without Borders, John Green took to his Youtube page to make the message heard. 

'Barely Contained Rage: An Open Letter to Johnson & Johnson' (Source: Youtube/vlogbrothers)

And thus sparked the viral spread the #PatientsNotPatents campaign advocating for J&J to allow the distribution of bedaquiline at affordable prices, especially in low to middle income countries with high burdens of TB. 

And it worked. 

On July 13th, the Global Drug Facility (GDF) released an update in which they announced J&J’s decision to grant GDF the necessary licenses to procure and supply generic versions of bedaquiline. Along with the Stop TB Partnership, this means that J&J is allowing the distribution of a generic version of this drug to the majority of low-and middle-income countries where the patent continues to remain in effect. 

Soon, suppliers meeting GDF’s quality criteria will also be able to offer this drug thus making it more accessible to many and working towards the common goal of ending TB. 

What does it mean for us? 

Advocacy works. 

This step may have been sparked by a celebrity, but, as John Green is quick to say, it is a culmination of years of hard work by advocates, like Results volunteers. 

It works to raise our voices on social media. It works to write letters. It works to raise awareness about this deadly and infectious disease. 

Not only is this a significant step towards more accessible and affordable treatment of TB, it is also a step towards its elimination.

A world without TB is possible and it’s the world we want. 

So today, we celebrate. 

We celebrate being #GameChangers, 

We celebrate bringing about change for the things we care about. 

And we celebrate advocacy. 

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