Government makes breast cancer drug cheaper


There is good news for cancer patients. The government has capped the price of exorbitantly priced trastuzumab , a life-saving drug used in breast cancer , at Rs 55,800 per injection, over 25% lower than the innovator Roche’s drug, Herceptin at Rs 75,000 per dose, among other oncology drugs .This is the first-ever instance of the drug pricing regulator, NPPA , fixing a ceiling on the biological breast cancer drug. The second significant medicine brought under price control is Pegylated Interferon used in cancer and hepatatis C treatment, with a ceiling price of Rs 14,515 per 100 mcg. The price revision follows key medicines used in cancer, Hepatitis B and C, being added in the National List of Essential Medicines earlier this year.The price changes communicated by the NPPA take place with immediate effect.In a decision notified on May 9, the NPPA has also fixed the retail price of 11 drugs, mainly anti-diabetic formulations. Industry body , IDMA said that it would seek some additional time to make the changes in the price packs. Copies of trastuzumab launched by Biocon and Zydus Cadila are also available in the market, but at a price much higher than the one capped by the government.

 When contacted Biocon Chairperson and MD, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw which markets trastuzumab, CanMab, said the move will benefit retail patients, and those who cannot procure the drug at a discounted rate, from a government (CGHS) or institutional scheme.Two years ago, Biocon introduced CanMab at Rs 57,500 per 440 mg injection, while Zydus Cadila did it recently at Rs 65,000 per dose.Biocon was thereafter sued byRoche and is still embroiled in a legal tussle, with the Delhi HC recently imposing certain conditions on its sale.However, Leena Menghaney activist and lawyer says the NPPA move may not be very beneficial. “Pharma companies charge high premiums for branded biological medicines such as anticancer drug, trastuzumab to maximise profits. The current system devised by NPPA of fixing prices based on an average MRPs of the brands in the market works against patients and consumer interests and leaves essential medicines out of reach for most.The ceiling price for the breast cancer drug trastuzumab listed by the NPPA is Rs. 55812 for 440 mcg and does not bring any relief to patients and their families who are going into debt or going without the treatment due to the costs”.

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