A new drug Bedaquline, which treats multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB), was launched in India on World Tuberculosis Day, March 21. For the initiative, the Indian government has joined hands with U.S. based healthcare firm Johnson & Johnson (J&J).

The breakthrough TB drug has been developed by Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a pharma arm of J&J.

Union Health Minister JP Nadda launched the drug, which was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) in December 2012.

Bedaquline is described by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a drug that has a "novel mechanism of action" for the treatment of MDR-TB. The WHO has also issued interim guidelines for administering the drug.

The health ministry said on Twitter that Bedaquline will be introduced in 104 districts across five states of India for the treatment of new drug resistant TB patients.

The health ministry would also set up 500 Cartridge Based Nucleic Acid Amplification (CNBAAT) test machines, which detect MDR-TB in two hours. Currently, there are 121 CNBAAT machines operational across the country. 

Nadda unveiled the Call to action for TB-free India — a social media and radio campaign — as part of the government's initiative under the Revised National TB Control Programme (RNTCP).

India has a staggering number of Tuberculosis patients and one-fourth of all TB cases worldwide are reported in the country, according to the TB-India Report, 2015 by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

In 2013, out of the estimated 9 million TB cases reported globally, 2.1 million were estimated to have occurred in India, the report said.

The report said RNTCP being implemented by health ministry is on track resulting in the reduced incidence of TB cases and decreased mortality due to the disease.

India is a signatory to the World Health Assembly, which has endorsed the "End TB strategy" under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

The End TB strategy envisages to reduce the incidence of TB cases by 50 percent and deaths related to TB by 75 percent by 2025.

The government also launched the third line antiretroviral therapy drugs for people infected with HIV in India.