Danaher cuts cost of rapid TB test after years of pressure from activists

Bacteria Mycobacterium Tuberculosis Social

Danaher has cut the cost of one of its tuberculosis (TB) tests in less developed countries following years of public pressure to lower the price.

Cepheid, a diagnostic company that Danaher acquired for $4 billion in 2016, developed the Xpert MTB/RIF TB test. The World Health Organization (WHO) endorsed the test in 2010. Cepheid initially charged $16.86 per cartridge, a price that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) noted was a 75% reduction in the normal market price.

In 2012, Cepheid reached a 10-year agreement with organizations, including WHO, USAID, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that reduced the price to $9.98 per cartridge in 145 countries. As the end of the agreement neared, people began to call for a further reduction in the price.

In 2019, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) called for Cepheid to cut the price of a cartridge to $5. The author John Green applied more pressure earlier this month, calling out Danaher on social media and YouTube channels followed by millions of people.

Danaher responded this week, sharing details of a new agreement that lowers the price it charges the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and malaria for an Xpert MTB/RIF cartridge to $7.97. The Global Fund said the 20% price reduction will enable the procurement of 5 million additional tests.

Lucica Ditiu, executive director of the Stop TB Partnership, discussed the implications of the price cut in a statement, explaining that almost half of TB diagnoses rely on “microscope and clinical examination, like hundreds of years ago,” despite the WHO recommending the use of a rapid molecular test such as Xpert MTB/RIF.

“This drop in the Xpert cartridge price is a step forward as we now have two rapid molecular tests below $8, which makes it a bit easier on the already small national budgets for TB,” Ditiu said.

Other people involved in the campaign to secure the lower price welcomed the agreement as well, although the deal is unlikely to completely end the pressure on Danaher. While Danaher said it is now selling the cartridges at cost and will make no profit, MSF is continuing to argue that the tests cost less than $5 to make.

MSF cited estimates that the cartridges cost between $3 and $4.60 to support its push to cut the price of XDR-TB, another Danaher test used to diagnose the deadliest form of TB. Danaher continues to charge $14.90 for XDR-TB, which have lead to MSF and Green to call for further price reductions.

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