'Orphan drugs' specialist Shire to expand India presence

Irish drugmaker Shire will bring new genetic disorder drugs to India as it steps up its presence in the fast-growing domestic market.

Shire, which had a global revenue of over $11 billion in 2016 specialises in drugs to treat rare diseases. These are diseases with low prevalence and limited treatment options. In India, drugs to treat rare diseases (also referred to as orphan drugs) are largely procured by the government and dispensed at public hospitals.

Shire's presence in the domestic market is still small compared to established markets like the United States and Europe but India has emerged as one the fastest growing market for the company.

“India is a strategic market for us. Last year we had a strong double-digit growth,” said Vineet Singhal, country head, Shire.

The company's FY17 annual report filed with the ministry of corporate affairs shows that its revenue grew over six times to Rs 337 crore in a year on year basis. Shire did not immediately comment on reasons behind the six-fold growth.

Currently, Shire sells twelve products (injectables) in India, including those treat blood disorder haemophilia. These are products it inherited from drugmaker Baxalta following a $32 billion global acquisition last year.

Shire has now applied to the Drug Controller General of India to introduce drugs to treat a category of genetic disorders known as lysosomal storage diseases. “We have made an application to launch the drugs. The application is under review and as of yet, we do not know whether a clinical trial will be needed in India. We are also evaluating the launch of oncology drugs in India,” he added.

The company's optimism to expand presence in India is also fuelled by the government's proposed policy on treatment of rare diseases and increase in a number of state government hospitals procuring drugs for an illness like haemophilia from three to 22 over the last 10 years. It is also supporting an initiative by Indian Council of Medical Research to compile a registry of rare diseases and has also launched a new patient support programme.

“We are optimistic and believe the government policy on treatment of rare diseases is a positive start,” he said.

Key takeaways
  • Shire posted global revenues of over $11 billion in 2016
  • It specialises in drugs that treat rare diseases (having low prevalence and limited treatment options)
  • In India, such drugs, also referred to as orphan drugs, are largely procured by the government and dispensed at public hospitals
  • Currently, Shire sells 12 products (injectables), including those treating blood disorder haemophilia, in India

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