Chinese Cancer Drugs Cost 30x More in U.S. Than in China

A recent development in the pharmaceutical industry has highlighted a significant disparity in drug pricing between the United States and China.

by Faruk Imamovic
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Chinese Cancer Drugs Cost 30x More in U.S. Than in China
© Getty Images News/Sarah Silbiger

A recent development in the pharmaceutical industry has highlighted a significant disparity in drug pricing between the United States and China. A cancer drug, developed by Chinese scientists and approved by the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA), will be priced over 30 times higher in the United States than in its country of origin.

This drug, along with two other Chinese cancer treatments, is set to experience a similar surge in prices upon entering the U.S. market. Despite this substantial mark-up, these Chinese cancer drugs will still be more affordable than their American counterparts.

This situation sheds light on the complex dynamics of drug pricing and accessibility in different healthcare systems. On Monday, California-based Coherus Biosciences, in partnership with Shanghai Junshi Biosciences, unveiled the U.S.

pricing for their drug, Toripalimab, marketed under the name Loqtorzi. In China, Toripalimab costs approximately 2,000 yuan (US$280) per single-dose vial, as reported by Chinese cancer informational websites. In stark contrast, Coherus announced a wholesale price of US$8,892.03 per vial in the U.S.

, according to a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

FDA Approvals and the Global Cancer Battle

Following the FDA's approval of Toripalimab, two additional Chinese-made cancer drugs have been greenlit for distribution in the U.S.

this month. Fruquintinib, an oral medication developed by HutchMed for treating metastatic colorectal cancer, was approved on November 9. Shortly after, on November 16, Efbemalenograstim alfa, an injectable drug by Evive Biotech for chemotherapy-induced neutropenia, received approval.

Fruquintinib, to be marketed as Fruzaqla in the U.S. by Tokyo-based Takeda Pharmaceutical Company, is expected to face a similar pricing trajectory as Toripalimab. Colorectal cancer, starting in the colon or rectum, is a major health concern globally.

It is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and a leading cause of cancer-related deaths in both men and women in the U.S., as per the American Cancer Society. Takeda, in a press release, noted that colorectal cancer also ranks third worldwide in prevalence.

Teresa Bitetti, President of Global Oncology Business at Takeda, emphasized the need for innovation in treating metastatic colorectal cancer, a sentiment echoed by Cathy Eng, a doctor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Eng highlighted the importance of treatment options that improve overall survival without compromising quality of life, especially for metastatic cancer patients who often have inoperable disease. This development in the pharmaceutical industry raises important questions about drug pricing, accessibility, and the global fight against cancer.

It underscores the need for a balanced approach to making life-saving medications available to those who need them most, irrespective of geographical boundaries.

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