18 January 2014, New Delhi: The Campaign for Affordable Trastuzumab welcomes the long awaited announcement that the Indian pharmaceutical company Biocon will now market a bio-similar of the breast cancer drug trastuzumab. The biosimilar to be marketed under the brand name of CANMAb is expected to be available in the Indian market from 1 February 2014 and will be sold at a price of Rs.19, 500/- per vial of 150 mg.
The marketing of the bio-similar so soon after the removal of patent barriers vindicates our stand in challenging and opposing the secondary patents and divisional patents on trastuzumab sought by Roche in India. We urge patients organisations and civil society groups in other countries to remain vigilant and resist similar unethical attempts by pharma majors to reap unethical profits at the cost of millions of lives.
Announcing the launch of the biosimilar, Ms. Kiran Majumdar-Shaw, CEO Biocon, reiterated her commitment to affordable treatment for Indian women with HER2+ breast cancer. However, a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation reveals that the introduction of the bio-similar will make little or no difference to women whose income is less than Rs.30,000/- per month. For these women – who constitute 75% of the population and include not only the very poor but also the aspiring middle class – CANMAb is as much out of reach as Roche’s Herceptin and Herclon.
Realistically, only families with an income of Rs 50,000/- or more can afford a monthly dose of CANMAb. Such families constitute less than 10% of the population. Biocon’s expectation that the introduction of CANMAb will “expand the patient pool” is therefore unlikely to become reality.
We urge Biocon to demonstrate their commitment to affordable treatment by bringing the price of CANMAb to below Rs.5000/- per vial. This will not only give Indian women with HER2+ breast cancer a chance for a healthy and productive life, but will expand the patient pool far beyond the borders of the country and bring relief to the millions of women in developing countries who are battling this disease.
We also call on the Government of India to take decisive steps to regulate the prices of biologicals (whether originators or biosimilars) like trastuzumab and pegylated interferon that are currently priced out of reach of the majority of those whose lives these drugs can save.
 Income distribution figures based on NCAER data for 2010
* Trastuzumab from Roche was first marketed in India at Rs.1.2 lakhs and then reduced to Rs.92,000/- and then to Rs.75,000/-.
For further information, please contact:
Kalyani Menon-Sen +91-9910306382
Leena Menghaney +91-9811365412
Background documents and updates from the Campaign for Affordable Trastuzumab:
August 2013: Press Release, Campaign for Affordable Trastuzumab welcomes the dismissal of Trastuzumab’s divisional patent applications, http://infojustice.org/archives/30408
August 2013: Statement, Roche relinquishes Trastuzumab patent in India, Campaign urges approval of biosimilars, http://infojustice.org/archives/30478
January 2013: Compulsory License for Anti-Cancer Drugs – Update from Campaign for Affordable Trastuzumab, http://infojustice.org/archives/28247
November 2012: Letter to Indian Prime Minister