Zydus Cadila launches affordable breast cancer drug in India

Zydus Cadila, the pharmaceutical arm of the Zydus group, said it has launched a next-generation breast cancer drug in India at a fraction of its existing cost.

The drug, Trastuzumab Emtansine, is considered the first targeted chemotherapy drug for breast cancer as it directs the cytotoxic activity at cancer cells by using a known biomarker.

Zydus’ drug is being offered at Rs 32,495 for a 100 mg vial, which is far less than the current maximum retail price of Trastuzumab Emtansine at Rs 1.59 lakh. The drug, under the brand name Ujvira, will be available in two strengths, 100 mg and 160 mg.

The conjugate can be used to treat both early and advanced HER2 positive breast cancer.

HER2 positive Breast Cancer is considered an aggressive form and constitutes 20 to 25% of all Breast Cancers.

Trastuzumab emtansine is unlike traditional drugs, as it is a conjugate of a cytotoxic drug with an antibody, and is far more difficult to manufacture than traditional drugs. It replaces traditional nontargeted chemotherapy with medication that directs the cytotoxic therapy to cancer cells by using a known biomarker.

“Trastuzumab Emtansine ADC biosimilar is developmental breakthrough due to its complexity in manufacturing and similarity assays,” said the Ahmedabad-based company.

“This drug is made by combining Trastuzumab and a cytotoxic compound Emtansine (DM1) with the help of a stable linker by a process called Antibody Drug Conjugation. Due to this technology the targeted delivery of the cytotoxic agent is enabled and the other toxicities on body are reduced,” it added.

Dr. Sharvil Patel, Managing Director, Cadila Healthcare Limited said the drug is a testament to the manufacturing prowess of Indian pharmaceutical companies. “This research breakthrough enables access to a critical drug for patients who are undergoing therapy for Breast Cancer. We hope that with this innovation, patients will be able to adhere to the treatment and stand to benefit from the advanced technology without worrying about the cost of the treatment,” he said.

Patients already treated with Trastuzumab may still have the disease and would require this therapy as the next step. The high cost of therapy is a barrier to availing this therapy and Ujvira bridges this need.

With more than 2.1 lakh new cases in 2020, Breast Cancer is the leading cancer in females in India and the risk increases with age. It is estimated that 1 in 29 women in India has a risk of developing Breast Cancer in her lifetime. Though rare, the incidence of HER2 Breast Cancer is also found in men. Other risk factors such as obesity, family history, genetics, alcohol, smoking, hormonal imbalance and improper diet have been identified as the contributing factors towards an increased incidence of Breast Cancer.