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Amgen forms joint venture in China to boost Vectibix

Partners with Zhejiang Beta Pharma on colon cancer drug

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Amgen is setting up a joint venture with Zhejiang Beta Pharma to accelerate the launch of its colorectal cancer (CRC) drug Vectibix in China.

Called Amgen-Beta Pharmaceuticals, it will commercialise Vectibix (panitumumab) in the Chinese market and tap into Zhejiang's oncology sales network in China, with the Chinese partner owning 51 per cent of the venture while Amgen takes a 49 per cent stake.

According to data published last year by Decision Resources, China's CRC market is predicted to grow from $261m in 2011 to more than $400m in 2016.

Vectibix is one of a stable of new products at Amgen intended to drive growth at a time when blockbuster brands such as anaemia drugs Aranesp (darbepoetin alfa), Epogen (epoetin alfa) and its white blood cell stimulators Neulasta (pegfilgrastim) and Neupogen (filgrastim) are reaching maturity.

The drug was first launched in 2006 with projections of $1bn-plus sales potential within five years, but has not made such dramatic headway in the CRC market against rival targeted therapies such as Eli Lilly/Merck Serono's Erbitux (cetuximab) and Roche's Avastin (bevacizumab). 

Last year, Amgen booked $359m in Vectibix sales - a rise of 11 per cent - and the company has made no secret of the importance it attaches to rolling products out in emerging markets to shore up sales growth.

Linking with Zhejiang could give Vectibix an opportunity to mount a stiffer challenge to Erbitux and Avastin in China, where use of the drugs has been held back by high treatment costs, despite being approved by the State Food and Drug Administration several years ago.

Decision Resources said the Chinese CRC market is undergoing considerable change thanks to broader reimbursement coverage, higher patient spending power and rising incidence of the disease resulting from the aging population and increased exposure to CRC risk factors such as westernised diets.

In addition to launch of the drug in China and expansion of the franchise in Asia, Amgen is also negotiating reimbursement for the drug in Europe following its recent approval in first- and second-line treatment of metastatic CRC.

The tie-up with Zhejiang Beta Pharma comes shortly after Amgen reported results from a phase III study - called ASPECCT - that showed Vectibix was at least as effective as rival drug Erbitux as a single agent for the treatment of metastatic CRC patients with wild-type KRAS tumours.

10th May 2013

From: Sales

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