Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Market Intelligence: China muscles in on pharma competition

Hot on the heels of news that Wal-Mart and Target have lowered the cost of prescriptions for cheap generics, China is preparing to compete in the generic market.

Reuters reported on the Chinese strategy as follows:

Pharmaceutical information group IMS Health Inc said last year's first okay from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for a Chinese generic, a copy of AIDS drug nevirapine, was a sign of things to come.

China is already the world's biggest producer of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), the chemical raw materials needed to manufacture medicines, but to date it has not been a significant supplier of finished generic pills.

Zhejiang Huahai Pharmaceutical Co Ltd won a U.S. green light last July to sell generic nevirapine, once the patent held by Germany's Boehringer Ingelheim expires in 2012. At least 10 other Chinese companies are set to follow suit with other generic products, according to IMS. Some could be available as early as this year. The result will be increased competition in a generic drugs industry that is already struggling with tumbling prices.

Overall, the Chinese move is expected to drive down generics prices below current market rates. After the recent heparin scare where questions were raised about the quality of the raw and integrity of materials in China, consumers and healthcare professionals may be nervous.

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