FIND welcomes first phase of Xpert MTB/RIF buy-down to reduce cost of cartridges by 40% for high-burden countries
In a drive to expand adoption of the Xpert® MTB/RIF test, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and UNITAID recently announced their agreement to significantly reduce the cost of this rapid TB diagnostic tool in 145 high-burden countries. Cepheid, the manufacturer of the Xpert technology, announced simultaneously that this agreement will fund the buy-down of the Xpert MTB/RIF cartridges from $16.86 to $9.98, effective as of 6 August 2012.
Xpert is an innovative, rapid, fully automated diagnostic system for detection in less than two hours of tuberculosis (TB) and resistance to rifampicin, one of the first-line drugs used in TB treatment. The delivery of rapid and accurate results based on the Xpert MTB/RIF assay considerably improves diagnosis of TB and enables immediate treatment of patients with the appropriate regimen, including second-line drugs in case of drug-resistance. Simple cartridge-based sample processing requires minimal bio-safety and training, making it possible for highly accurate molecular testing to be used outside conventional laboratories and in rural settings in high-burden countries.
FIND recognized the potential of the GeneXpert system for revolutionizing the diagnosis of TB and in 2006 signed a partnership agreement with Cepheid for the development of a test designed specifically for the detection of TB in developing countries. In 2010, the WHO endorsed the Xpert MTB/RIF for use in low-resource settings as the initial diagnostic test in cases suspected of MDR-TB or TB/HIV co-infection. As part of its role in the development and evaluation process, FIND negotiated a price reduction at launch of the new system of more than 75% for the public health sector and not-for-profit agencies in 145 countries.
Today, FIND welcomes the further reduction in price of the Xpert MTB/RIF cartridges that will contribute to accelerate adoption of this system. “We applaud this initiative that represents another important milestone towards widespread access to the Xpert test and acknowledges the ground-breaking role that this technology is already playing in improving TB control in the developing world,” said Philippe Jacon, FIND Chief Executive Officer. “The 750 GeneXpert instruments, comprising 3,600 modules and over 1.1 million Xpert MTB/RIF cartridges procured as of June 2012, can be considered as a reward for FIND and their partners’ development efforts of which we are all very proud.”
A major scale-up of Xpert MTB/RIF is being implemented in India under the responsibility of the FIND India office. Under the EXPAND-TB CBNAAT project, the Xpert technology is being established in twelve laboratories across the country for rapid diagnosis of rifampicin-resistant TB. Five laboratories are already functional and the remaining facilities are expected to be fully operational by the end of September 2012. The goal of this project is to offer rapid drug-susceptibility testing to more than 30,000 drug-resistant TB suspects and is expected to diagnose more than 10,000 drug-resistant TB patients.
The technological advance of Xpert and its facilitated introduction in high-endemic countries have great potential to save lives around the globe, especially since MDR-TB and TB in HIV positive individuals are difficult to diagnose using conventional diagnostic methods. In addition, the GeneXpert platform can be used to perform other diagnostic tests besides TB, which will further increase its cost-effectiveness over time and foster the integration of disease programmes. To this end, FIND is currently supporting the development of the Xpert HIV viral load assay with Cepheid.