14 May 2017
Cancer drug gets embroiled in the prevailing Indian pharma conflict
Indian pharma is currently waging a war against Roche, a Swiss-based pharma major that has monopoly over a cancer drug, which can be provided at a much cheaper rate.
India's drug demand is a multimillion dollar scenario and Roche is not willing to let go of such a lucrative business even at the price of human lives.
Here's what you need to know.
The cancer drug in question
Those who suffer from breast cancer either make use of biologics, that are proteins, created from living sources or synthetic biologics, which mimic the qualities of the original biologic products.
The drug in question is Trastuzumab, launched in 2002 and is a biologic that stunts the growth of breast cancer cells by stopping the HER-2 protein from sending growth signals to the harmful cells.
Manipulation by the Swiss pharma major
This conflict has been raging for some time now with Roche manipulating the market to block entry of biosimilar versions of Trastuzumab, globally sold under the brand name Herceptin.
A Competition Commission of India directed investigation discovered that Roche has been using its influence on regulators and medical professionals so that they don't prescribe the biosimilar versions of Trastuzumab made by Indian drug makers.
Biocon & Mylan
Indian pharma stands up to the bully
Indian company Biocon led by India's first woman pharma-billionaire, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, and Mylan had complained to CCI in 2016 that Roche has been using illegal means for quite some time.
Roche took drastic steps such as suing Indian drug regulator for granting permission to Indian pharmas for manufacturing biosimilars and using the observations of the court in a roundabout manner to "intimidate" medical professionals.
Intimidating everyone that came in their way
According to Biocon and Mylan, this $51 billion worth Swiss pharma major had even written letters to concerned agencies and hospitals to manipulate tender conditions, while 75,000 Indian women are dying of breast cancer every year, a different scenario could have brought down the numbers.
Roche now holds 70% of the market share and has also introduced Trastuzumab for other ailments like gastric cancer.
Thankfully there is help at hand
However, there is finally help at hand; the chairperson of CCI remarked in his order, "There is a difference between puffery aimed at promoting one's own product and adopting practices which disparage or malign the image of competitors."
The order added, "The line of difference…when crossed by a dominant enterprise to its own illegal advantage, it warrants intervention by the competition authority."