The colorectal cancer drug market in China is set to grow from a value of $261 million in 2011 to $404 million in 2016, and a key factor driving this fast growth will be the increased used of targeted therapies, according to a new report.

Two targeted therapies - Merck KGaA's Erbitux (cetuximab) and Roche's Avastin (bevacizumab) - have been approved by the State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA) in China but, so far, the high cost of treatment with these two drugs has limited their use to colorectal cancer patients in the second or third line of therapy, according to the study, from Decision Resources. 

However, the study's authors forecast that, up to 2016, Chinese oncologists will be using Erbitux and Avastin not only earlier in the treatment algorithm, but also more frequently.

"The use of Erbitux in first-line treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer patients is common in the major markets, and we anticipate that practice will impact prescribing patterns in China," says Jing Wu, an analyst at Decision Resources. “Because of the premium price of these agents, even a slight increase in patient share will drive increased sales and market growth," she adds.

The report also forecasts that expanded reimbursement of drugs used in the treatment of colorectal cancer, increased patient spending power and a rise in the number of diagnosed and drug-treated patient populations will also contribute to growth in this market in China.

"The number of diagnosed incident cases of colorectal cancer in China will increase 4% annually over our 10-year forecast," according to Ms Wu. She adds that this increase will be due in the main to an ageing population and an increase in the age-adjusted risk of colorectal cancer, due to increase exposure to various risk factors attributable to this form of the disease.

- Colorectal cancer is the third most common form of the disease in the world, and while in the past rates of the cancer have been lower in China than in the West, the incidence has been increasing substantially in recent years, mainly as a result of the dramatic change in lifestyle throughout the country over the last two decades, particularly in the more developed provinces.

In March, Chinese leaders announced that the competitive tendering system for procurement of 307 essential medicines - which has been found, in pilot schemes running in five provinces, to cut the drugs' prices by at least 30% - is to be widened to include around 800 products. This will help to cover the cost of expensive, and mainly imported, cancer drug treatments, say officials, who also plan to widen the tendering system further to include cancer drugs used in hospitals.