Chinese Pharmaceutical Development Forging Ahead

According to the New York Times, three drugs created in China are a step away from being approved for use in the United States, a sign of China’s growing role in the global pharmaceutical industry. The Chinese government has made pharmaceutical innovation a priority, moving to speed up drug approvals and invest heavily in research. One of the drugs, a cancer treatment called Savolitinib, is made by Hutchison China MediTech (Chi-Med) in partnership with AstraZeneca. If further tests prove positive, Chi-Med will apply for breakthrough therapy designation from the U.S. FDA. Analysts expect 20-30 Chinese-made drugs to seek Phase 3 trials in the United States – the world’s biggest market for cancer drugs – in the next 5 years.

Meanwhile, China is also providing a second chance for companies whose drugs failed to make it to market in Europe, the U.S., and elsewhere. Bristol-Myers Squibb halted global trials of anti-tumorigenic drug Brivanib in 2012 after it failed to outperform a competing therapy, but has since licensed it to Shanghai-based Zai Lab. The stroke drug Cinepazide was withdrawn from Spain, Italy, and France in the 1980s and 90s after reports it caused blood disorders, but had become China’s top-selling drug by 2010, according to Credit Suisse. Sihuan Pharmaceutical, the company that markets Cinepazide in China, says its version is purer than the one sold in Europe.