MUMBAI: Cancer drugs may soon come under the purview of India’s drug price regulator, as they have become too expensive for the common man to afford, according to Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) Surinder Singh.
The move could hurt the margins of multinational companies, such as Sanofi-Aventis, Pfizer, Roche, GlaxoSmithKline and Eli Lilly, who enjoy a near monopoly in the category, also populated by Indian drug-makers Dr Reddy’s, Natco and Dabur.
Mr Singh told this reporter on Tuesday that he has recommended that cancer drugs be brought under the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA). “As the DCGI, I have outlined the technical inputs and rationale behind the suggestion for the inclusion of new drugs. Cancer drugs, in particular, should be included, since they are expensive and beyond the means of the common man,” he said.
A final decision on this will have to be taken by the department of pharmaceuticals. According to a pharma analyst, oncology is still a small segment for Indian firms, but they have a number of products in the pipeline over the next two to three years.
“It (the price regime) would be a negative for MNC companies, as the return on investment will take longer,” said the analyst, who asked not to be named.
This may lead firms to launch their oncology drugs in other emerging markets instead of India. Cancer, the second-largest non-communicable disease, accounts for 3.6% of the total deaths in India. According to a study published in the Indian Journal of Cancer, more cases were projected in the 45-55 and 65-70 age groups for women and men, respectively.
Oral and lung cancer in males and cervix and breast cancer in women account for over half of all cancer deaths in India. The Indian breast cancer drug market alone is expected to double from $35 million in 2007 to $64 million by 2012.