ACTION commends price reductions on improved TB test to speed diagnosis, save lives

On August 7, 2012, the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), UNITAID, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced an agreement that will significantly reduce the cost of the rapid TB diagnostic test Xpert MTB/RIF (commonly referred to as GeneXpert)  in 145 high-burden and developing countries. ACTION issues the following statement in response:

“ACTION applauds the leadership of PEPFAR, USAID, UNITAID, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for their leadership in reducing the cost of GeneXpert by 40 percent — a significant cost reduction for a critical technology for fighting tuberculosis, a disease that takes the lives of 1.45 million people each year.

GeneXpert is transforming how we detect and treat TB. Unlike simple microscope tests, GeneXpert’s sophisticated DNA technology is able to accurately detect the disease among people living with HIV, and delivers results in two hours instead of weeks, enabling people to more quickly learn their status and get treatment. GeneXpert can also identify possible cases of drug-resistant TB, supporting the proper treatment as well as stopping the spread of more dangerous and deadly strains of the disease

Until now, the cost of GeneXpert cartridges prevented many low and middle-income countries from acquiring this life-saving technology. Funds provided by this partnership of public and private organizations will reduce the cost from more than $16 per cartridge to just under $10 per cartridge, and protect the technology from price increases for a decade.

To enable countries to take full advantage of this price reduction, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria must be fully funded, and Global Fund leadership should work with the leadership of middle-income countries such as South Africa to ensure countries have the resources to purchase GeneXpert. Critically, the Global Fund’s new funding model must not have budget caps that will limit countries’ ability to articulate demand for scale-up of new tools such as GeneXpert.

Without diagnostics and other new tools, we will not be able to accelerate progress against this curable disease. While not a point-of-care test, GeneXpert is the quickest and most accurate way to diagnose TB currently available. We urge leaders in both public and private sectors to continue to support the development and rollout of new TB technology and to fully take advantage of this price reduction to scale-up the use of this important new tool."

Link: Award-winning two-minute film: one patient’s experience with GeneXpert.