The central government has decided to increase access to Johnson & Johnson’s anti-tuberculosis drug as part of its efforts to eradicate the disease by 2025, Reuters reported on Monday. The Health Ministry’s TB division chief Sunil Kharpade said the firm’s breakthrough medicine, Bedaquiline, will be available at 140 government-run tuberculosis treatment centres.

Experts, however, stressed that a lot more needs to be done to achieve the goal of a TB-free India by 2025. The drug is currently available at six government centres. “We have conducted training in several states in the past few months, and we are prepared to start giving it to patients across 140 centres,” Kharpade told the news agency.

Bedaquiline is one of two drugs – the other being Delamanid – marketed to treat the deadly disease. “India’s TB programme has made a lot of progress in the past few years. But compared to what they need to do if they are serious about eliminating TB in eight short years, they have barely scratched the surface,” said Jennifer Furin, an expert in infectious diseases at Harvard Medical School.

India accounts for nearly 25% of the tuberculosis cases reported worldwide. Kharpade said the administration has been hesitant to promote the drug over fears that the bug might develop a resistance to the treatment. “India has provided Bedaquiline to only 300 patients, with another 300 courses available. There are plans to get treatment for 1,000 more patients in the next year,” said Kharpade.

Statistics of the World Health Organisation, however, indicate that the country is much behind in tackling the estimated 28 lakh cases every year. “What that means is those people continue to transmit the bacteria to the community, and it makes elimination impossible,” Furin explained.

Groups, including Lawyers Collective and Medecins Sans Frontieres – also known as Doctors Without Borders – are pushing for increased access to Delamanid, as well. “We got these drugs after half-a-century of stagnant research,” said Mario Raviglione, head of the WHO’s TB-control programme.