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Generic version of top-selling lung cancer drug hits Chinese market

Published on 20/02/17 at 11:06am

A generic version of AstraZeneca’s Iressa (gefitinib) has been released onto the Chinese market, named Yiruike. The generic undercuts the price of Iressa drastically, with Iressa now being 5 times more expensive, and offers to extend the lifesaving medication to those in need who previously could not the cost of AstraZeneca's drug.

Every year roughly 591,000 people die from lung cancer every year in China, with it being the leading cause of death due to cancer, and there are 733,000 new cases diagnosed of lung cancer every year. The generic treatment will see approximately 80% of those diagnosed being able to take Yiruike for treatment of non-small cell lung cancer.

Iressa was made available to those whose treatment by chemotherapy was not successful but the cost saw many working-class Chinese citizens unable to pay. A week’s supply of Iressa exceeded 10,000 yuan ($1,470) but the new generic has reached the market at 2,000 yuan.

The generic will be produced by Qilu Pharmaceutical and was cleared to be released on the market by China’s Food and Drug Administration after patents protecting Iressa expired in April 2016.

The news is a further blow to global sales of Iressa, which were released during AstraZeneca’s annual financial report as being down 6%. Global sales were reported to have been at $513 million.

Ben Hargreaves

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