NEW DELHI, May 4, 2012 (AFP) - Indian generic drug giant Cipla said Friday
it had slashed by up to 76 percent prices of three anti-cancer medicines in
what it called a "humanitarian" move and promised to cut the costs of more
There are 2.5 million cases of cancer diagnosed in India each year,
according to the World Health Organisation, with most patients receiving
inadequate treatment as drugs are priced beyond their reach.
"Business is business, but it has to be linked with one's social
responsibilities. This initiative of price reduction is a humanitarian
approach by Cipla to support cancer patients," company chairman Y.K. Hamied
"This is the beginning -- we have done it with three products, we will do
it I hope with many more," Hamied told AFP, adding that Cipla had around two
dozen anti-cancer drugs in its range.
Cipla cut the price of Soranib, a generic version of German giant Bayer's
blockbuster kidney cancer drug Nexavar by 76 percent, and will sell it at
6,840 rupees ($130) for a monthly dose, down from 28,000 rupees.
It also said the lung-cancer drug Gefticip, originally produced by
AstraZeneca, would be priced at 4,250 rupees, down by over half, and it cut by
three-quarters the price of brain-cancer drug Temoside, originally made by
Schering, to 5,000 rupees.
"Drugs constitute a significant proportion of the overall cost of cancer
treatment and a reduction in costs can greatly relieve the burden," Hamied
Cipla makes its cancer drugs at its plant in the southern state of Goa that
has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.
The family-led company first hit headlines in 2001 when it offered to
supply life-saving triple therapy AIDS drug cocktails at prices sharply below
those of multinational firms with Hamied saying the move was for "social
Competition among generic manufacturers in India, known as the "pharmacy to
the developing world", has reduced HIV drug prices from $10,000 per person per
year to $150, Medecins Sans Frontieres says.
Cipla has been pushing the Indian government to allow widespread use of
so-called "compulsory licences" for production of life-saving patented drugs
to overcome barriers for people in accessing affordable medicines.
Compulsory licences are allowed under the World Trade Organization's TRIPS
Agreement, which governs trade and intellectual property rules.
Analysts said Cipla's move could prompt a price war in the 15-billion-rupee
Indian drug market -- challenging multinationals which sell costly patented
medicine and Indian firms whose generic range is less expensive but not as
cheap as Cipla's.
"This market is price-sensitive and when larger players start cutting
prices, others will likely follow," Sudarshan Padmanabhan, pharmaceutical
analyst at Mumbai investment house Prabhudas Lilladher, told AFP.
Shares in Cipla, whose market value is around $5 billion, rose 2.46 percent
to 325.20 rupees on the back of an "outperform" rating by brokerage CLSA, as a
falling Indian currency swells foreign earnings and its domestic market grows.