Two new cancer drugs to make their way into India
Cancer drug that treated former US president Jimmy Carter who was suffering from melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer, might be hitting the Indian market by September 2016
Astha Saxena | Posted by Anand Jayaram New Delhi, April 23, 2016 | UPDATED 08:39 IST
The cancer drug that treated former US president Jimmy Carter who was suffering from melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer, might be hitting the Indian market by September 2016. Carter was being treated with a cancer drug called Keytruda that uses the immune system to fight off cancerous cells.
Various medical experts said the drug which has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will increase the curability rate by 20 per cent and prolong the life of the cancer patients.
Currently, the hospitals are importing the drug from foreign country. Another drug, Opdivo, will also be made available at the same time. Opdivo is also used to treat melanoma.
"These are the new class of drugs which will chance the entire concept of cancer treatment in the country. Initial attempts have been successful in India. The approval is on its way and we are waiting for the final decision. We are importing the drug from foreign country," Dr Amit Agarwal, Director and Head of department, Medical Oncology, BLK Super Speciality Hospital.
Keytruda, made by pharmaceutical company Merck, was originally approved by the FDA in September 2014 to treat melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer that can also show up in other organs of the body, as it did in Carter`s case. The drug, which got approved to treat a form of lung cancer in October, is also being explored to treat a number of other cancers, including head, neck, breast, bladder and Hodgkin Lymphoma.
"These are one of the best drugs which have been approved as am first line drug by the US FDA for melanoma and lung cancer and second line drugs for liver and kidney cancer. It might come up in every cancer soon. The initial trials have shown that the drugs will prolong the lives of the patients," said Dr Bharat Ashok Vaswani, medical director, Oncology, Yashoda hospital, Hyderabad.
Sources say one of the major roadblocks in the approval of these drugs is its cost. The drug will cost around Rs 4-7 lakhs and the entire cancer treatment through this drug will go above Rs 1 crore.
"These drugs might not be helpful for the general public. They are too expensive and not every patient can afford it. The talks are going on and the final decision is yet to come out," a senior government official told Mail Today.
Few hospitals in the country have used the drug on some of the patients and have so far received a good response. "We have started using the drug. They have been approved by the FDA. So far, the response on the patients is very good. Around four-five patients have been treated with the drug in our hospital. These drugs have to be used on the patients for the first three months after which the final call is taken whether the drugs have to be continued or not," said Dr Sachin Almel, consultant oncologist with PD Hinduja Hospital, Mumbai.