Roche dropping Herceptin price in India by 30%

Roche, whose patents have been under attack in India, is moving forward with plans to manufacture some drugs in the country, indicating it will drop the prices by as much as 50%, even as it faces a new threat from India's compulsory license law. 

The Minister of State of Chemicals and Fertilizers Srikant Kumar Jena said Roche ($RHHBY) had informed the ministry that it intends to use Emcure Pharmaceuticals, "to produce its innovative biologics in India," and had provided proposed prices for cancer drugs trastuzumab (Herceptin) and rituximab (MabThera), the Economic Times reports. He said Roche would drop the price of trastuzumab in India from its current 110,700 rupees ($2,000) to 75,000 rupees ($1,366), a 31% drop. Rituximab would be reduced from about $1,456 a month to $682, a 53% reduction. He did not say when the drugs would hit the market. 

This comes even as the government has started the process of granting three more compulsory licenses, this time on Herceptin, as well as Bristol-Myers Squibb's ($BMY) leukemia treatment Sprycel and breast cancer therapy Ixempra. In March of last year India granted its first compulsory license on Bayer's kidney cancer treatment Nexavar. Since then, Natco Pharma has been marketing its version at a small fraction of the branded price.

A year ago, Roche confirmed it was working with contract manufacturer Emcure, to produce Herceptin and MabThera for India and other developing markets, but otherwise has been pretty mum about the arrangement. Roche and other drugmakers have been trying to find their way in India where the high prices of their drugs have faced strong resistance and its patents have faced attack.

In November India's patent appeals board yanked Roche's patent on Pegasys, a hepatitis C drug that's been on the market there since 2006. Two months earlier an Indian court upheld Roche's patent for Tarceva, but said that a generic, Erlocip, from Cipla did not step on Roche's patent. Roche has been wrestling with Cipla, Natco and Dr. Reddy's Laboratories over what it considered an illegal attack on Tarceva. 

- read the Economic Times piece