China Timesofindia

Indian firms can now access China’s cancer drug market

From straitstimes

BEIJING: In a move that might open up opportunities for Indian pharmaceutical firms, China has opened its vast market of government hospitals to foreign companies manufacturing cancer drugs.

The government has included 17 cancer drugs manufactured by foreign companies in its national basic insurance programme. Half of the thousands of government-run hospitals have been asked to use these imported drugs for treating cancer of the lungs, rectum and kidney.

This is a major opportunity for the Indian pharmaceutical sector, which has been seeking access to the Chinese market. India-made drugs are relatively cheap compared to those made in the West, giving Indian companies a clear edge.

But there are questions about whether Indian companies would make the best of the opportunity. They have been reluctant to invest funds and the time it takes to conduct trials and get approval from regulators before releasing a drug, while Western companies are eager to do so.

The move comes after a public outcry against the non-availability and extremely high prices of foreign-made cancer drugs, forcing patients and their relatives to use smuggled medicines. Government-imposed restrictions led to the creation of a vast black market for cancer medicines that were smuggled from other countries, including India.

The government recently allowed a movie, Dying to Survive, to be widely screened across China. The movie showed how cancer drugs smuggled from India had become widely popular in China despite regular police crackdowns. One character in the movie was seen bitterly criticising government policy, a rare occasion where the Chinese government has allowed criticism of its policies.

At least 129 cancer hospitals and 1,257 tertiary hospitals have already begun to take advantage of the government’s decision, which was taken some months ago but publicly announced only now.

“Availability of cheap drugs has greatly eased the financial burden of some cancer patients,” state media quoted National Health Commission spokesperson Song Shuli as saying.

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