Merck & Co. to launch Keytruda in China at half of US price: report

Merck & Co. will launch Keytruda (pembrolizumab) in China at a cost of 17 918 yuan ($2615) for a 100 mg/4 mL dose, which represents a 50-percent cut to the price in the US, making it the lowest price for the anti-PD-1 immunotherapy anywhere globally, reported Caixan Global. The move comes after Bristol-Myers Squibb recently said that when its PD-1 inhibitor Opdivo (nivolumab) is launched in China, it will be available at around half of the US price. Merck has also reportedly developed a patient financial assistance programme for Keytruda, with those who have no side effects from three months of paid treatment getting the next three months free.

According to the report, the Chinese price of Keytruda will also be at a 30-percent discount to its cost in Hong Kong. Keytruda was approved by China's National Drug Administration in July for adults with unresectable or metastatic melanoma following failure of one prior line of treatment, marking the first approval of an anti-PD-1 therapy for advanced melanoma in the country.

Bristol-Myers Squibb recently indicated that Opdivo will carry a cost of 9260 yuan ($1352) for a 100 mg/10 mL dose. The therapy became the first PD-1 inhibitor authorised in China following its approval in June for use in certain previously treated patients with locally advanced or metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer.

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Chinese authorities unveiled plans earlier this year seeking to cut cancer drug prices in the country, with a recent report indicating that companies were reducing cancer drug prices there in response to tariff exemptions and value-added tax reductions. Drugmakers have also suggested that recent reforms implemented in China would offset the effects of price cuts.

According to IMS data, anti-cancer drug revenue in China totalled 102 billion yuan ($14.9 billion) in 2016, reflecting 18 percent of all cancer sales globally. Meanwhile, worldwide sales of Keytruda surged 172 percent last year to about $3.8 billion, versus 2016, with revenue from Opdivo climbing 31 percent to nearly $5 billion.


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