Is Bangladesh to India what India is to China?

In a twisted way, that’s a question worth asking. At least when it comes to cancer drugs.

India has, for a long time now, been one of the top suppliers of generic drugs in the world. The Indian pharma industry is possibly the largest provider of generic drugs, meeting about 40% of generic drug demand in the US. The drugs are mostly of decent quality and relatively low price, which is a win-win for any buyer out there.

But when it comes to cancer, India is failing its own population, let alone the world.

In July 2018, China agreed to reduce the import tariffs for Indian medicines, specifically cancer drugs. This came days after a hugely-popular dark comedy Chinese movie called Dying to Survive told the story of a man diagnosed with leukaemia who imports cheap cancer drugs from India to China.

While Indian cancer drugs are a cheaper alternative for the Chinese, as irony may have it, not all Indians can afford them. In fact, according to a first-of-its-kind WHO report from December 2018, the price of many oncology drugs in India are as high as in developed countries, taking Indians purchasing power into account.

So what are Indians doing about this? Turning to Bangladesh.

That’s right. The likes of S Distributors, a small-time importer and drug distributor in South Delhi, form the middle ground between Indian cancer patients and cheap cancer drug alternatives from Bangladesh. And it’s a bit hard to not draw parallels between their business and the plot of Dying to Survive.

What doesn’t help Indian patients’ case in all of this is that there is practically no price control on patented cancer drugs that promise higher chances for survival than older drugs. These drugs have been and will continue to be outside the ambit of the price control policy, even though India has amended the Drug Pricing Control Order DPCO in January 2019—the legislation used for capping prices of drugs. The direction the price control policy has taken is evidence that lowering the price of cancer drugs is not a priority.

Cancer drugs can cost as high as Rs 2,11,538 ($2979) (for two months treatment of leukaemia with Dasatinib – with a daily 70 mg tablet). The drug is patented by New York-based Bristol-Myers Squibb and is used for treating leukaemia. About 40% of the oncology drugs market in India is made of patented drugs, says a senior executive with the American pharma major Eli Lily. Patented drugs are new and carry more benefits than risks.

AUTHOR

Ruhi Kandhari

Ruhi writes on the impact of healthcare policies, trends in the healthcare sector and developments on the implementation of Electronic Health Records in India. She has an M. Sc. in Development Studies from the London School of Economics.

View Full Profile

Subscribe to read this story

The Ken is the only business subscription you need. Questions?

 

Premium

  • 5 original and reported longform business stories every week
  • Access to ONLY India edition
  • Close to 250 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories
  • Pick up to 5 premium subscriber newsletters
  • 4 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to ONLY Southeast Asia edition
  • Close to 200 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to all paywalled stories since March 2020
  • Pick up to 5 premium subscriber newsletters

Rs. 2,750 /year

$ 120 /year

India Edition
Subscribe Subscribe
Most Asked For

Borderless

  • 8 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to both India and Southeast Asia editions
  • Close to 400 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories across India and Southeast Asia
  • Unlimited access to all premium subscriber newsletters
  • Visual Stories

Rs. 4,200 /year

Subscribe
 

Echelon

  • 8 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to both India and Southeast Asia editions
  • Close to 400 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories across India and Southeast Asia
  • Unlimited access to all premium subscriber newsletters
  • Visual Stories
  • Bonus annual gift subscription
  • Priority access to all new products and features

Rs. 8,474 /year

Subscribe
Or

Questions?

What kind of subscription plans do you offer?

We have three types of subscriptions
- Premium which gives you access to either the India or the Southeast Asia edition.
- Borderless which gives you complete access to The Ken across both editions
- Echelon which gives you complete access to The Ken across both editions along with a bonus gift subscription

What do I get if I subscribe?

The Premium edition gives you access to stories in that edition along with any five subscriber-only newsletters of your choice.

The Borderless and Echelon subscription gives you complete access to The Ken across editions and unlimited access to as many newsletters as you like.

What topics do you usually write about?

We publish sharp, original and reported stories on technology, business and healthcare. Our stories are forward-looking, analytical and directional — supported by data, visualisations and infographics. We use language and narrative that is accessible to even lay readers. And we optimise for quality over quantity, every single time.

Our specialised subscriber-only newsletters are written by our expert, award-winning journalists and cover a range of topics across finance, retail, clean energy, cryptocurrency, ed-tech and many more.

How many newsletters do you have?

We are constantly adding specialised subscriber-only newsletters all the time. All of these are written by our team of award-winning journalists on a specialised topic.

You can see the list of newsletters that we publish over here.

Does a Premium subscription to your Indian edition get me access to the Southeast Asia edition? Or vice-versa?

Afraid not. Each edition is separate with its own subscription plan. The India edition publishes stories focused on India. The Southeast Asia edition is focused on Southeast Asia. We may occasionally cross-publish stories from one edition to the other.

We recommend the Borderless or the Echelon Plan which will give you access to stories across both editions.

Do you have a mobile app?

Yes! We have a top-rated mobile app on both iOS and Android which allows you to read on-the-go and has some amazing features like the ability to bookmark stories, save on your device, dark mode, and much more. It’s really the best way to read The Ken.

Is there a free trial?

You can sign up for a free account to experience The Ken and understand our products better. We’ll send you some free stories and newsletters occasionally, and you can access our archive of previously published free stories. You can stay on the free account as long as you’d like.

The vast majority of our stories, articles and newsletters can be accessed only by a paid subscription.

Do you offer any discounts?

Sorry, no. Our journalism is funded completely by our subscribers. We believe that quality journalism comes at a price, and readers trust and pay us so that we can remain independent.

Do you offer refunds?

No. We allow you to sample our journalism for free before signing up, and after you do, we stand by its quality. But we do not offer refunds.

I am facing some trouble purchasing a subscription. What can I do?

Just write to us at [email protected] with details. We’ll help you out.

I have a few more questions. How can I reach out to you?

Sure. Just email us at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter.