China hits Big Pharma meds with 15%-plus price cuts

Pharma's path to a big payoff in China is growing narrower and narrower. The government has just announced its fourth drug-price cut since 2011, with 400 meds subject to forced discounts. And on that list are several of Big Pharma's key products.

In a statement issued earlier today, China's National Development and Reform Commission outlined 20 classes of drugs affected, including respiratory remedies, pain relievers and--for the first time--specialty drugs. The average hit will be 15%, with cuts to the more expensive drugs running as high as 20%, Reuters reports.

So, what's on the list? A whole variety of Big Pharma's biggest products. Some are off-patent in the U.S., but others are still big-time blockbusters:

  • Merck's ($MRK) asthma drug Singulair and antifungal Cancidas;
  • Pfizer's ($PFE) antibiotic Zyvox, antipsychotic Geodon, and Cox-2 pain drugs Celebrex and Dynastat;
  • Novartis' ($NVS) antiseizure drug Trileptal, antidementia med Exelon and bone drug Zometa;
  • Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) antipsychotic Risperdal;
  • Eli Lilly's ($LLY) diabetes drug Humalog, antipsychotic Zyprexa, blockbuster antidepressant Cymbalta, and ADHD fighter Strattera;
  • AstraZeneca's ($AZN) antipsychotic Seroquel, statin drug Crestor and inhaled steroid Pulmicort;
  • GlaxoSmithKline's ($GSK) antiseizure drug Lamictal, antidepressant Paxil, nasal spray Flonase, and herpes remedy Valtrex;
  • Sanofi's ($SNY) diabetes drug Lantus and antimalarial Plaquenil;
  • Lundbeck's antidepressant Cipralex and Eisai's Alzheimer's drug Aricept, among others.

The cuts are obviously designed to reduce healthcare costs, and that's important at a time when China is trying to expand care to much of its population--and when its population is aging. But pricing pressures and other restrictions complicate pharma's efforts to maximize sales in the country, one of the industry's hopes for making up for patent-cliff losses.

- here's a link to the NDRC statement (in Chinese)
- read the Bloomberg story
- get more from Reuters