China's New Anti-Cancer Drugs Will Make Treatment Cheaper

By Jonathan Zhong, January 10, 2019

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A new anti-tumor drug developed to treat patients with classical Hodgkin lymphoma, called Sintilimab Injection, has been approved for sale by China’s National Medical Products Administration.

The drug was co-developed in China by Innovent Biologics and Eli Lilly and Company and has, according to CCTV, brought about signs of improvement in 80.4 percent of the patients (74 out of 92) who have used the drug.

Classical Hodgkin lymphoma is a type of b-cell lymphoma that often affects people aged between 20 and 40 years old, for which effective treatment has been lacking.

READ MORE: China Approves First-Ever Self-Developed Anti-Cancer Drug

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The anti-cancer drug co-developed by Innovent Biologics and Eli Lilly and Company. Screengrab via Innoventbio.com

The drug is an anti-cancer therapeutic modality that helps to boost the immune system in one’s body to trigger an anti-cancer response and is hence a type of ‘immunotherapy.’

“Immunotherapy is a kind of cancer treatment that kills tumor cells by mobilizing the body’s T-lymphocytes and other immunocytes cells, whereas traditional targeted drugs and cytotoxic drugs target cancer cells directly,” said Shi Yuankai, deputy director of China’s National Cancer Center who headed the clinical trials of the drug.

Other than classical Hodgkin lymphoma, the research team is also conducting clinical trials with the drug that targets 20 other diseases, including lung cancer, gastric cancer, liver cancer, esophageal cancer and more.

According to Shi, the efficacy and safety of the drug is generally on par with imported anti-tumor drugs, but its price, which has not been mentioned, will reportedly be much lower.

In the meantime, China has enacted new policies to completely remove the tarriffs on materials used to produce over 50 different anti-cancer drugs, beginning January 1, 2019, according to Beijing Daily.

In Shenzhen, 17 anti-cancer drugs were included in residents’ medical insurance on December 1, 2018. According to Shenzhen Evening News, one of the drugs, named Osimertinib, cost RMB51,000 before being covered by medical insurance, but its price has been reduced to RMB15,300. Since the insurance covers 90 percent of a resident’s medical expenses, a patient who uses the drug now only needs to pay RMB1,530 for it.

According to a report by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, China had around 4.2 million new cases of cancer in 2018, with approximately 2.9 million dying of cancer in the same year.

The new drug, along with the newly implemented price-reduction measures, will significantly lighten the financial burden of cancer patients while increasing their chances of surviving the disease.

READ MORE: Chinese Girl Sells Virginity to Cure Brother's Cancer

[Cover image via Unsplash]

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