Compulsory Licensing not the only way to cancer drug affordability: Biocon chief Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw

Nandita Vijay, BengaluruThursday, January 17, 2013, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

Compulsory Licensing is not the only way to access affordable cancer drugs. While reasonable and well within means healthcare is important for Indian patients, compulsory licensing is not the only way to deliver it, said Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, chairman and managing director, Biocon Limited.

“In my opinion, the government should have looked at interim commercial measures to bring down the prices for trastuzumab rather than Compulsory Licensing which should have been the option of last resort triggered in instances of national emergencies,” she added.

“The other ways of ensuring affordability can include for instance price control and discounted bulk procurement by the government. In most countries, treatment for cancer is managed effectively by the government through appropriate reimbursement mechanisms thus making expensive therapies more affordable. I believe that a similar approach also needs to be taken for a highly effective cancer therapy like trastuzumab for India,” pointed out the Biocon chief.

“While patient advocacy groups have brought up a valid issue that can have a big impact for cancer patients, I would suggest the government to review all possible options prior to invoking Compulsory Licensing. In every emerging market including India, there needs to be a right balance between monetizing IP and delivering affordable healthcare. This will ensure that we breed a culture of innovation and at the same time ensure that innovation benefits all. In my view, the industry needs to work closely with the government to strike this perfect balance,” pointed out the Biocon chief who is also a well entrenched player in the oncology biotech drug space with BioMab EGFR.

In fact, Biocon is the first Indian company to achieve the distinction of developing and manufacturing monoclonal antibodies in accordance with stringent international guidelines. The company had launched the world’s first humanized anti-EGFR monoclonal antibody, ‘Nimotuzumab’ or BioMab EGFR for the treatment of head and neck cancer.

The Biocon chief was responding to a news report carried by Pharmabiz recently on the Department of Pharmaceuticals (DoP's) move to issue compulsory licences for three commonly used anti-cancer drugs - trastuzumab (or Herceptin, used for breast cancer), ixabepilone (used for chemotherapy) and dasatinib (used to treat leukaemia).