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BMS strategy for new Hepatitis drug

July 11, 2006 14:45 IST
The pricing and distribution strategy that pharma firm Bristol Myers Squibb has adopted for its recently launched drug for the treatment of chronic Hepatitis B - Baraclude - risks limiting its use in India, say critics.

The drug has been priced at Rs 208 (exclusive of taxes) for a 0.5-mg tablet, whereas rival drugs like Abesovir and Lamivudine cost Rs 15-20 and Rs 30-40, respectively.

Sceptics have discounted the claims made by BMS - Ajay Tiku, medical director, saying that Baraclude is "300 per cent more potent than existing drugs" - and don't see too many patients opting for it.

"Baraclude is a good drug, slightly more potent than other the drugs available, but it's also extremely expensive and doesn't justify the cost," says Anil Arora, senior consultant at Delhi's Ganga Ram Hospital.

Patients will also have to grapple with the controlled distribution that BMS has adopted for it. A prescription drug, Baraclude will not be available at local chemists.

Patients would have to fax the prescription to a specific BMS distribution centre for authentication, and the company will then have it delivered at the patient's doorstep.

Arora feels that usually such distribution doesn't work in India. Chemists seem miffed. "Such distribution is not allowed in India, and the All India Chemist Association will most probably not allow it," rages a spokesperson for Delhi's Verma Chemist.

To BMS, it's perhaps part of a strategy to rewrite some rules of the sedate pharma market, often seen to be in the grip of special interests. It's a high-risk, high-return move.

Nanditta Chibber in New Delhi