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Deal to make cheaper cancer drugs

CHINESE patients are expected to have cheaper cancer drugs within a few years after domestic pharmaceutical companies develop new drugs adopting a new technology called monoclonal antibody therapy.

The therapy uses monoclonal antibodies, which are made by one type of immune cell that are all clones of a unique parent cell, to specifically bind to target cells and stimulate the patient's immune system to attack cancerous cells.

So far only international pharmaceutical giants have developed medicines with the technology to treat diseases like cancer and arthritis. But the drugs cost too much for most Chinese cancer patients, at least 15,000 yuan (US$2,214) per dose, with five doses needed for one course of treatment.

Domestic pharmaceutical companies have started research on the monoclonal antibody therapy, whose global sales are growing by 20 percent annually. But the market for the medicines is limited due to its high price, industry insiders said.

Officials said the domestically made medicines will be sold at least 30 percent cheaper than imported ones.

To speed up domestic R&D on the therapy, Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical (Group) Co signed an agreement with Argentina-based Chemo Group in the city yesterday to jointly develop and produce monoclonal cancer drugs.

The agreement said Fosun and Chemo will jointly invest 500 million yuan to research and produce four monoclonal medicines, which are all copies of medicines soon to pass patent protection, and all will be put on the domestic market within four years.

The four medicines include three drugs treating breast cancer, colon cancer and lymphoma respectively and one drug treating rheumatoid arthritis.

"Monoclonal antibody therapy is the future for biochemistry and pharmacy and domestic pharmaceutical companies should invest more on new drug R&D and innovation," said Chen Qiyu, chairman of Fosun Pharmaceutical.


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