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Home News and Update Year 2012 Anti-cancer drug prices hit the roof

Anti-cancer drug prices hit the roof

05 Oct 2012
In spite of the SC directive to cap costs, patients will continue to be burdened as most medicines are sourced from MNCs

Even as the Supreme Court has directed the Centre not to increase the cost of essential drugs in the market, those suffering from life–threatening ailments, especially cancer , will have to continue paying through their nose for treatment.

Reason: A majority of the anti–cancer drugs do not feature under the ambit of the government’s new proposed list of 348 drugs. Doctors pointed out that a bulk of drugs are procured from foreign players leading to escalated costs. "Targeted treatment for breast cancer therapy can cost anywhere up to Rs10 lakh. Hardly 3% to 5% of patients can afford such costly treatment. The drugs are procured from multinational pharma players and thus, the costs hit the roof," said Dr CS Pramesh, head of thoracic surgery, Tata Memorial Hospital in Parel. One of the methods to ease patient woes by making medicines affordable, doctors feel, is to boost indigenous clinical research and drug development for the domestic market. Hardly 10% of the entire medical and pharmaceutical fraternity though is involved in original research for drug development.

"Not many Indian pharmaceutical firms test compounds which are in the pipeline. It will take another 10–12 years to understand if the new molecules being developed by the firms will yield any results. Also, it is cumbersome to initiate clinical trials and research in India because it takes a long time to gain the government’s regulatory sanctions," said Dr Arun Bhatt, president, Clininvent Research. With very few pharmaceutical companies taking the onus to develop indigenous drugs, doctors say treating life–threatening conditions, including cancer, is the next big challenge.

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"By 2020, 70% of the world’s cancer burden is going to fall on the shoulders of developing nations. With the occurrences of oral cancer or tuberculosis not very high in the western world, developed countries are hardly interested in researching on highly efficacious drugs to tackle such ailments. Original clinical research to better tackle such illnesses thus becomes necessary," said Dr Pramesh.

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