Roche Scientific Company has launched its anti-cancer drug ‘Tarceva' (erlotinib) in India. This drug can prolong lung cancer patient’s life by 6-9 months and also reduce the symptoms denoting the advanced stage of the disease. Tarceva has remarkable survival benefit (42.5 per cent) in advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), the most common form of the disease. Traceva, unlike chemotherapy, specifically targets tumor cells and inhibits their growth. Roche claims that ‘Tarceva’ is especially helpful for advanced or metastatic NSCLC patients for whom at least one prior chemotherapy treatment has failed. The US has approved this drug since November 2004 and the European Union, since September 2005. The company has applied for a patent in India.
With a potential to treat many types of solid tumors, this tablet is to be taken orally, once a day, but Tarceva comes at a high price. Only 3-5 per cent of India's 1,69,000 cancer patients can afford this drug. There is a likelihood of other Indian companies making cheaper versions of the medicine. Currently, Roche imports almost all the products to India from its manufacturing facilities abroad. The company is hopeful that the government will reduce the import duties, which can significantly reduce the cost.
Roche Group is exploring possibilities of partnering with Indian biotechnology companies for product manufacturing, research outsourcing and other pharma service outsourcing. Industry sources said Roche had preliminary discussions with leading Indian companies in the biotechnology space including Shantha Biotech, Biocon, Bharat Biotech etc.