Indian drugmaker Dr Reddy’s Laboratories has launched Reditux, its version of MabThera/Rituxan (rituximab), Roche and Biogen’s treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Reditux costs approximately half as much as the Roche product and Dr Reddy’s adds that, in certain cases, it will provide the drug free of charge.

Reditux’ first market is India, but Dr Reddy’s says it will also seek to sell it in other markets including the USA, where Congress is currently considering legislation to set up an approval pathway for generic versions of biotechnology drugs.

Launching the drug, Dr Reddy’s chairman Anji Reddy said the company was proud “to know that we have succeeded in developing this very complex molecule which will help in providing an affordable solution to patients.”

Reditux will cost 10,000 rupees ($242/£122) for a 100mg dose, about half the price of MabThera, and Dr Reddy’s will also make it available free in certain cases under its new Sparsh assistance program for cancer patients. Chief executive GV Prasad described Sparsh as a first step in serving the needs of patients by increasing medicines access and affordability. “While the program is in early stages of implementation in the oncology care space, we hope to further increase the reach to other therapeutic areas in future,” he said.

MabThera/Rituxan, the world’s first monoclonal antibody to be approved for the treatment of cancer, is marketed in over 65 countries including India, where more than 20,000 patients are diagnosed with NHL each year. It is also approved for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, and, on May 1, positive data from a Phase II clinical study of its use in patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis were presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology.

Dr Reddy’s is India’s third-largest drugmaker, and Reditux is the second product to be launched by its biologics division; the first was Grafeel, its version of Amgen’s neutropenia treatment Neupogen (filgrastim). The division has several other products in development, primarily for oncology and autoimmune diseases.

Industry set to urge govt panel on price controls

Meantime, the first meeting of the Group of Ministers (GOM) set up by the Indian government to examine the long-awaited draft National Pharmaceutical Policy has decided to hear pharmaceutical industry objections to the Policy’s proposal to increase the number of price-controlled drugs to 345. Such a move would regulate 60% of the domestic drug market and harm the industry’s R&D prospects, say sector groups including the Indian Drug Manufacturers’ Association, the Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance and the Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India.

Competition should be the way to lower drug prices, say the groups, which are reportedly readying a joint presentation to the Ministers. The GOM will also hear from nongovernmental organisations on the issue. By Lynne Taylor