India, China making inroads in biotech drugs: Report

Washington: Chinese and Indian drug makers have taken over much of the global trade in medicines and now manufacture more than 80 percent of the active ingredients in drugs sold worldwide, according to the New York Times.

Until now, they had never been able to copy the complex and expensive biotech medicines increasingly used to treat cancer, diabetes and other diseases in rich nations like the US, the influential daily reported.

These generic drug companies say they are on the verge of selling cheaper copies of such huge sellers as Herceptin for breast cancer, Avastin for colon cancer, Rituxan for non-Hodgkin`s lymphoma and Enbrel for rheumatoid arthritis.

However their entry into the market in the next year, made possible by hundreds of millions of dollars invested in biotechnology plants, may ignite a counterattack by major pharmaceutical companies and diplomats from richer countries, it said.

Yusuf K. Hamied, chairman of the Indian drug giant Cipla Ltd., told the Times in a telephone interview last week that he and a Chinese partner, BioMab, had together invested $165 million to build plants in India and China to produce at least a dozen biotech medicines.

Other Indian companies have also built such plants. Since these medicines are made with genetically engineered bacteria, they must be tested extensively in patients before sale, the Times said.

Once those tests are complete, Hamied promised to sell the drugs at a third of their usual prices, which typically cost tens of thousands of dollars for a course of treatment.

"And once we recover our costs, our prices will fall further," he said. "A lot further."


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