FiercePharmaAsia—China's price-slashing round; Takeda's Japan cuts; Sinopharm's COVID-19 vaccine price

Asia Map
China's drug bulk procurement scheme, Takeda and Sinopharm made our news this week. (Google)

Multinational pharmas, including Eli Lilly, Pfizer, Merck & Co. and AstraZeneca, lost to local generic makers in China's third round of bulk procurement bidding for off-patent drugs. Takeda is reportedly planning to sell its Japanese OTC business to Blackstone for more than $2 billion, just as the company is offering domestic staffers early retirement to reduce its headcount. Sinopharm's chief has narrowed down the price range for its inactivated COVID-19 vaccine candidates, and the quotation looks higher than what Western drugmakers are charging the U.S. government for their shots. And more.

1. Eli Lilly, Pfizer, Merck among Big Pharma losers in China's latest round of procurement bidding

China has pulled off its third round of drug procurement bidding, as drugmakers cut prices by 53% on average to sell their off-patent medicines in bulk to public hospitals. AstraZeneca’s heart med Brilinta, Pfizer and Bristol Myers Squibb’s anticoagulant Eliquis, Pfizer’s Viagra and Eli Lilly’s schizophrenia therapy Zyprexa are among the Big Pharma drugs that lost contracts to local low-cost copycats.

2. Takeda to sell Japan consumer health unit to Blackstone for $2B-plus: reports

Takeda is said to be finalizing an agreement to sell its Japanese consumer health business to U.S. private equity firm Blackstone Group. The rumored deal size varies: Nikkei Asian Review said Takeda’s getting about JPY250 billion ($2.37 billion), while Kyodo News quoted the sticker at about JPY300 billion ($2.85 billion). Either way, the transaction would wrap up Takeda's quest to divest $10 billion in assets.

3. Takeda offers Japanese sales, admin staffers early retirement in post-Shire slimdown

Meanwhile, the Japanese pharma is trying to reduce its domestic workforce by offering early retirement to sales and administrative employees as young as 30 years of age. The latest cutback comes as Takeda pivots to focus on its five major business areas, having recently moved medical representatives from the primary care department to oncology and neuroscience.

4. Sinopharm chief says COVID-19 vaccine will cost less than $145 for 2-dose regimen

Sinopharm shares phase 2 data on inactivated COVID-19 vaccine

The head of China’s state-owned Sinopharm, Liu Jingzhen, said its inactivated vaccines would cost less than 1,000 yuan ($145) for two doses. It’s not immediately clear what price Liu was referring to—the out-of-pocket cost or list price. But at that top end, the price would be higher than shots offered by foreign vaccine developers in bulk procurement to the U.S.

According to interim phase 2 data recently published in JAMA, Sinopharm’s shot, developed by its biological research institute in Wuhan, triggered neutralizing antibodies at levels comparable with those seen in other studies on candidates from Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca-Oxford.

5. Chinese regulators pen requirements for COVID-19 vaccine approval—and they're stricter than the FDA's

China’s National Medical Products Administration, in a new guideline for greenlighting COVID-19 vaccines, said it would require a shot to demonstrate that it’s at least 50% more effective at fending off the disease than placebo and that the protection should last for at least six months. On top of those minimum requirements, the agency also laid out what it prefers to see.

6. Indian vaccine maker looks to raise $1B for COVID-19 shot manufacturing, trial efforts: report

The Serum Institute of India is looking for $1 billion of investment by September to support its manufacturing of five COVID-19 vaccine candidates, including those from AstraZeneca and Novavax. Private equity investors Blackstone and KKR are reportedly in talks to lend their help.

7. With J&J's COVID-19 shot on tap, Indian vaccine maker ramps up manufacturing with Akorn deal

Fellow Indian drugmaker Biological E recently penned a deal to help Johnson & Johnson make its adenovirus vector-based COVID-19 vaccine candidate. Now, the company has acquired a 39,000-square-foot facility in Himachal Pradesh from Akorn India that could add 165 million doses to its annual capacity.

8. Otsuka beats back Novartis opposition with $15M purchase of smart pill developer Proteus

A U.S. bankruptcy court in Delaware approved Otsuka’s proposal to acquire now-bankrupt digital pill developer Proteus Digital Health for $15 million. The deal faced objections from a group of Proteus investors, including Novartis, which alleged that Otsuka, as Proteus’ largest shareholder and biggest customer, didn’t give the company’s assets fair value.

9. Japanese CMO Bushu plugs $100M into broad expansion plans for 'Asia hub'

Japanese contract manufacturer Bushu Pharmaceuticals will invest $100 million into cold storage, packaging and fill-finish capabilities at its Misato, Japan, plant over the next five years. The company is nearing completion of a 42,000-square-foot cold-chain warehouse. It will also add seven sterile injectable inspection stations each for liquid or lyophilized vials.

10. WuXi AppTec sees growth for CRO, clinical work, but COVID-19 still causing disruption

WuXi AppTec’s clinical research and other CRO services saw revenue of CNY 500 million ($72.3 million) in the second quarter. However, the group's year-over-year growth of 5.9% dragged down its overall performance, which was up 22.7% during the period. Much of the company’s growth came from contract manufacturing and development units as well as its China-based laboratory services.