Novartis nabs Chinese OK for Lucentis, launches Galvus

Novartis ($NVS) has gotten a double boost in China. First, the government approved its eye drug Lucentis, and second, the company launched its diabetes medication Galvus. Lucentis, an injectable treatment for wet age-related macular degeneration, will be targeted at the 300,000 newly diagnosed patients per year in that country, while Galvus joins one of the world's fastest-growing diabetes markets.

"Rapid economic development has led to dramatic changes in life expectancy, physical activity and diet," Novartis said in a statement, "increasing the number of people with obesity-related diabetes and placing a significant strain on healthcare resources." An estimated 25 million Chinese have uncontrolled diabetes, the company said.

China is pharma's promising frontier, where new government investment in healthcare is meeting major growth in chronic diseases such as diabetes. Novartis has pledged more than $1 billion in spending on Chinese infrastructure, including a $250 million research and manufacturing facility in Changsu. And as the Swiss drugmaker sheds jobs in Europe and the U.S., it's adding jobs in China.

"The announcement demonstrates Novartis' efforts to penetrate emerging markets, and in particular China," Kepler Capital Markets analyst Martin Voegtli told Reuters, adding, "[t]he commercial launch in China will contribute to the excellent growth prospects of the two products and support their status as a major growth driver for the pharmaceuticals division."

- see the release from Novartis
- see the Reuters news