Cancer Drugs Get Cheaper in India
Cancer Drugs Get Cheaper in India

Roche Holding AG is cutting the price of two expensive cancer drugs in India and giving them new names in an effort to gain market share and avoid competition from generic drugs in the fastgrowing economy

The move marks a shift for the Swiss drug maker which long has argued that consumers everywhere should pay the same price for its medications By giving the drugs new names in India Roche hopes to avoid losing pricing power elsewhere though it isnt clear the company will succeed on that score

The arrangement involves Herceptin and Mabthera the wholesale costs of which are about 3000 to 4500 a month per patient Tuygan Goeker head of Middle East and Asian markets at Roche said the prices would be cut in India starting next year though he declined to say by how much By offering lowerpriced versions Roche also aims to avoid being compelled under Indian law to allow genericdrug makers to produce lessexpensive copies

The drugs will be packaged locally by Indiabased Emcure Pharmaceuticals Ltd Mr Goeker said Roche is hoping the new names which havent been revealed and are subject to Indian approval will prevent wholesalers from buying the Indian product and reselling it at a profit in other markets where the new brand names wont be licensed for sale he said

The rebranding addresses a growing headache for the pharmaceutical industry Middlemen increasingly are snapping up cancer drugs in lowcost markets for resale in more profitable markets such as the US and Europe even though such trade is illegal in some countries

Roche also hopes that giving the Indian product a separate identity will help the company maintain its prices for Herceptin and Mabthera outside India quotThe original Herceptin and Mabthera price are not going to change This is going to be a second brandquot Mr Goeker said

It is far from guaranteed that other countries wont demand the Indianlevel prices once they become public however Insurers and government health systems in many markets have been pushing for discounts on the expensive drugs
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Roches high prices have limited use of the companys cancer medications in emerging markets

Roches high prices have limited use of the companys cancer medications in emerging markets where few staterun health systems or consumers can afford the drugs Indias staterun system typically doesnt cover the drugs so patients who want them must pay out of pocket Mr Goeker said At one large hospital which treats about 30000 cancer patients a year only 5 of those eligible for the breastcancer treatment Herceptin currently receive the drug and many take it for far less time than is recommended he said

Roche is aiming to win usage rates in India quotat least severalfold higherquot than todays levels Mr Goeker said Roche is quotassessing a lot of possibilitiesquot regarding other emerging markets he said and is treating the India arrangement as a pilot deal

Roches plan also partly is aimed at preventing India from demanding a socalled quotcompulsory licensequot for Roche drugs which would allow a genericdrug maker to make lessexpensive copies Indian law gives the countrys patent regulator such authority if a medicine is priced beyond patients reach

India this month exercised the right for the first time forcing Germanys Bayer AG BAYNXE 028 to grant a compulsory license for cancer drug Nexavar which costs 5700 for a months supply The patent regulator said genericdrug maker Natco Pharma Ltd had pledged to sell Nexavar for 178 a month

In India quotthere is the expectation that companies should do more to improve access to drugs One instrument that has been used unilaterally by the Indian government was use of the compulsory licensequot Roche spokesman Daniel Grotzky said quotWed like to provide solutions to that rather than be in a situation where you see unilateral actionquot he said

Roche said its deal with Emcure partly was motivated by Indias desire to see global pharmaceutical companies sign partnerships with Indian companies Roche will continue to make the cancer medicines at its plants in the US Singapore and Germany and ship vials of the drugs to Emcure for packaging If the partnership goes well Roche eventually will allow Emcure to start filling the bulk drug into vials for packaging Emcure couldnt be reached for comment

Date : 23 Mar, 2012
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