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It’s early to say whether China’s decision to import drugs from other countries shuts the window of opportunity for Indian companies here, but it certainly narrows it. (AFP)

China talks pharma with India, but buys cheap drugs from other countries

It’s early to say whether China’s decision to import drugs from other countries shuts the window of opportunity for Indian companies here, but it certainly narrows it.

WT24 Desk

China has imported dozens of new drugs including cancer medicines for government hospitals while it engages New Delhi in long-drawn negotiations to allow Indian pharmaceuticals access to the country, The Hindustan Times reports.

Hundreds of thousands of batches of foreign-made drugs are now available in government hospitals across the country to ease the cost burden of patients, state media reports said.

“The latest 17 cancer drugs included in China’s national basic medical insurance program in October are now available in more than half of all major hospitals in China,” the national health commission was quoted by the state-controlled China Daily newspaper on Friday.

Many of these drugs are imported, the report said, but did not mention the countries of import although it was learnt that none were from India.

Indian drugs especially cancer-fighting drugs are in demand in China where the cost of treating the deadly disease is prohibitive — that’s where cheaper and effective Indian drugs could fill the demand.

It’s early to say whether China’s decision to import drugs from other countries shuts the window of opportunity for Indian companies here, but it certainly narrows it.

The access is also meant to cut down the India-China trade deficit.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said in July that China and India were in sound communication on opening the Chinese market to drugs from India and conducting cooperation between the two sides’ pharmaceutical industries.

That was when the movie ‘Dying to Survive’ — based on the true story of a Chinese cancer patient smuggling in made-in-India cancer drugs to China — was making waves.

That wave has subsided, the demand for cheaper drugs has remained and India-China talks on pharma haven’t apparently picked up pace.

Many patented drugs, including cancer drugs, are sold expensive here because of reasons such as higher circulation costs and lack of research and innovation ability among domestic producers.

The report added that the 17 cancer drugs, many of them imported, treat major cancers such as lung, rectal and kidney cancers, and are in high demand by patients in China.

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