Roche, the Swiss pharma giant, will cut the prices of blockbuster Mabthera, in South Africa.
This is an another Emerging Market move from Roche. In recent months, Roche made an agreement with Emcure Pharmaceuticals in India, to manufacture the products locally and to get the prices lower.
Now, in South Africa, an another important market, the price of Mabthera will be almost halved in order to increase patient access. Although this offer came from the governmental body, this move will also secure Roche’s position against possible biosimilars.
According to BusinessDay, The Department of Health has persuaded Roche to halve the price of Mabthera, opening the way for the government to provide it to more patients in South Africa. As well known, Mabthera (rituximab) is used for treating non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, CLL, and severe rheumatoid arthritis and the product is marketed as Rituxan in the U.S.
Mabthera has until now been too expensive for the state to procure on a wide scale, the department’s deputy director-general for health regulation and compliance, Anban Pillay, said on Monday this week. The fact that it is on the national tender means provinces with the capacity to offer cancer treatment will purchase the drug, within the constraints of their budgets. The main cancer treatment centres are in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, the Western Cape and the Free State in South Africa.
Roche is a price-setter for MabThera, as the only market with a rival product is India (Reditux marketed by Dr.Reddy’s). The drug generated $1,52bn in revenue for Roche during the third quarter of last year.
The department’s latest two-year oncology tender, on its website, shows the government is willing to pay R7950 for a 50ml vial of the injectable rituximab, and R1590 for a 10ml vial. Dr Pillay said the health department was also in discussion with Roche over the scope for a “more affordable” price for its breast cancer drug Herceptin, which was too expensive.
Herceptin is available only to state patients who are enrolled in clinical trials, and to people who belong to medical schemes willing to pay for it. Medical schemes vary in the extent to which they will foot the bill; some schemes pay for a year’s treatment, while others will pay for only nine weeks.
Dr Pillay said some biologics that were unaffordable to the state — such as Novartis’s leukaemia drug Gleevec — were available at no charge to some public sector patients through what are known as “patient access” programmes, where the drugs are donated by the company.
However, these programmes were not open to private sector patients, as they breached the medicine pricing laws, which say there must be a uniform price for the private market.