China's generic drug industry has entered a golden era with growing innovative ability and Chinese drug companies are expected to surpass their Indian counterparts in the near future, industry insiders said on Tuesday.
The comments came after the Chinese black comedy Dying to Survive, which hit Chinese mainland theaters Thursday, set off a nationwide debate about cheap Indian generic drug imports and the domestic generic drug manufacturing industry.
Shares of major pharmaceutical firms showed good performance on Tuesday, with Jiangsu Hengrui Medicine up by 0.82 percent, while those of Sino Biopharmaceutical Group were up 0.84 percent as of closing.
"India's generic drugs, especially anti-cancer ones, are cheaper and of good quality, while domestic generic drugs have long been criticized for their 'unreliable' quality. Domestic generic drug manufacturers are also reluctant to produce high-quality drugs due to low profits," Cai Jiangnan, a healthcare research fellow at the China Europe International Business School, told the Global Times on Tuesday.
India is the largest provider of generic drugs globally, with Indian generics accounting for 20 percent of global exports in terms of volume, said a report published on the website of the India Brand Equity Foundation.
"In India, generic drugs are not subject to a patent protection period, thus enjoying a policy advantage in the earlier stage, making it stronger," Cai told the Global Times on Tuesday.
Cai added that China should not copy this "irregular path."
But there are some things that China should learn from, for example, clear policy guidance, said Li Tianquan, co-founder of domestic healthcare big data platform yaozh.com.
Some Indian pharmaceutical companies have opened a sales channel to Europe and the US by targeting high-quality generic drugs, Li told the Global Times Tuesday.
China is now heading in the right direction, as Chinese regulators have been regulating the drug review process, and domestic drug companies have also been improving their innovative abilities, according to Li.
Li also pointed to the method of consistency evaluation for generic drugs, which was released by the China Food and Drug Administration in 2016 to evaluate the quality and effect of generic drugs, saying that "the evaluation method would ensure quality of domestic drug products, leading the industry to a sound development mode."
The country's leading pharmaceutical firms have already made some breakthroughs.
For example, Jiangsu Hansoh Pharmaceutical Group told the Global Times on Tuesday that Xinwei, a generic anti-cancer drug it produces, has officially passed the country's consistency evaluation for generic drugs, proving that its quality and effects could already compare to the original drug Gleevec, which is produced by Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis.
"With almost the same effect, we sell for only one-tenth of the price of Gleevec," said the company.
Data showed that in 2017, the sales volume for Xinwei was 210 million yuan, accounting for a market share of 10 percent, while at the same time, the sales volume for Gleevec was 1.5 billion yuan, with almost 80 percent of the market.
Li said the market share for generic drugs is expected to surpass 50 percent as soon as the drugs pass the consistency inspection.
"We are in the best era for developing and producing drugs in China, which we feel lucky about," said the Hansoh Group.
"It's not realistic to surpass India in the short-term, but in eight or ten years, there will be a breakthrough in the domestic generic drug industry," Li said.