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Roche to cut prices of two cancer drugs in India

Cheaper versions of Herceptin and MabThera to be made available as government strengthens efforts to improve access to medicines

Roche has said it will make cheaper versions of its cancer drugs Herceptin and MabThera available in India, a move that follows recent efforts from the country's goverment to crack down on high-price branded medicines.

Earlier this month, India's patent office granted a 'compulsory licence' to a generic version of Bayer's Nexevar despite it still being in patent, ruling that the German firm had not made the drug available to the public at a 'reasonable affordable price'.

Roche plans to partners with India-based Emcure Pharmaceuticals to manufacture and market the cut-price versions of Herceptin and MabThera, with both drugs also facing changes to their branding, according to a Reuters report.

India, which has a pharmaceutical market worth of about $20bn, is currently facing pressure to improve access to cheaper drugs and its Department of Pharmaceuticals is working on bringing in new drug pricing legislation.

The draft National Pharmaceutical Pricing Policy 2011 (NPPP) aims to "put in place a regulatory framework for pricing of drugs so as to ensure availability of required medicines – 'essential medicines' – at reasonable prices even while providing sufficient opportunity for innovation and competition to support the growth of industry".

The draft policy has faced criticism from both the branded and generics industry, including the Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance, a lobby group the country's generics industry, which said price caps could cost the industry more than $600m in revenues.

Drugs to be affected by the policy consist of those listed in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare's National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM), which contains 348 products.

The Indian government insists changes to drug pricing is necessary as only 34 of these medicines are included in the 74 drugs that currently have capped prices in the country under the existing policy. Furthermore, 47 of these 74 drugs are no longer produced for the Indian market.

Neither Herceptin or MabThera appear in the most recent version of the NLEM from 2011, with Roche's price cuts potentially necessary to compete with drugs that will have their prices capped.

Company spokesperson Daniel Grotzky, told Reuters: "The scope is to enable access for a large majority of patients who currently pay out of pocket as well as to partner with the government to enable increased access to our products for people in need."

• Find out more about the Indian pharmaceutical market in PMLiVE's Country Report: India.

23rd March 2012

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