Daily Mirror - Print Edition

India manufactures world’s cheapest drug to treat Sickle Cell Anaemia

19 Mar 2024 - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}      

Akums Drugs & Pharmaceuticals, aligning with the Narendra Modi government’s vision of eliminating sickle cell anaemia, has slashed the price of its key drug by 99 per cent.

The firm has launched the world’s cheapest Hydroxyurea to treat the disorder, slashing the price of the drug to Rs 600 (for every 100 ml) which is significantly lower than the current import price of approximately Rs 77,000 for global brands.

Sickle cell disease is a hereditary blood disorder that alters the structure of red blood cells, causing them to become sickle-shaped and unable to adequately transport oxygen throughout the body.

Hydroxyurea is an oral suspension drug primarily used as chemotherapy medication to treat certain types of leukaemia. Also, the drug is beneficial for individuals with sickle cell disease as it maintains the roundness and flexibility of blood cells, facilitating smoother blood flow and improved oxygen delivery throughout the body. Consequently, this leads to reduced pain and fewer hospital visits.

Another significant advantage of the Akums-manufactured suspension is its stability at room temperature, unlike its global counterpart, which necessitates storage at 2-8 degrees Celsius.

Akums, headquartered in Delhi, operates as a pharmaceutical contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) and manufactures a line of products for top drugmakers, including Cipla, Dabur India, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, and Sun Pharmaceutical among others.

The drug will be sold by Akums as well as other pharma companies under different brand names. “We will distribute it both directly and through pharmaceutical companies. This is a significant decision currently under discussion,” the company’s official spokesperson told News18 in an email.

“Our goal is to ensure its widespread availability in the Indian market as an affordable medication,” the official said while replying to the emailed questionnaire.

Sickle cell anaemia presents a significant health concern, with treatment costs being exorbitant. Patients endure severe pain, and the annual mortality rate from this disease continues to rise. Addressing this ongoing challenge has proven to be a persistent struggle for both the medical and pharmaceutical sectors.

As the disease is more prevalent in tribal areas, Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya congratulated the firm for manufacturing the cheapest medicine.

“Many congratulations to you for developing a medicine to prevent sickle cell disease. PM @NarendraModi ji had launched the Sickle Cell Anemia Eradication Mission by 2023. This medicine will prove to be a boon, especially for our tribal sisters, brothers and children and we will soon free India from sickle cell,” the minister tweeted on social media platform X.

The company claims that its research and development team has been working on reducing the price of the drug for the last two years.

On being asked if there are any other drugs in the pipeline whose prices can be slashed phenomenally, the official spokesperson said that the company is working on slashing the prices of multiple drugs.

“Our research and development team and product teams are dedicatedly working on several drugs. The pricing of medicines is determined under the guidance of the price regulator, National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA).”

“It would be hasty to disclose the names of these medicines at this time. We will keep you updated as soon as we receive approvals from the authority.”

The company said that its R&D team is currently working on several rare diseases, one of which is sickle cell anaemia, for which the Hydroxyurea oral suspension has been developed.

“Additionally, we have recently launched a nasal spray in our pharmaceutical line. Furthermore, we are also focusing on nutraceuticals, with innovative gummies and liquid orals already launched under this category,” the spokesperson said.(News 18)