Competition heats up in oncology market

Oncology remain the single largest therapeutic area for companies. However with drying pipelines, increasing cost of launching new drugs and patent expiries, developing new anticancer drugs is a major challenge


The cutthroat competition is a big concern since quite a few domestic companies and all the major multinationals have a presence in this segment in India. The depleting price realization of oncology medicines has posed a serious threat to the viability of this segment. Besides, due to low affordability and unorganised healthcare services, a large section of patients remains untapped and deprived of medical treatment, making the expandability of the market difficult. In such a scenario, neither the patient nor the manufacturer is benefiting.

According to Shukrit Chimote, head, Branded Formulations-India, Biocon, "Though the average life expectancy and the cancer detection rates have steadily gone up in India over the past decade leading to increasing number of patients on cancer treatment, the Oncology market growth seems to be stagnating off late. Also, the access to quality oncology healthcare and availability of affordable medicines to large tracts of rural population remains a key challenge for the public health administrators and could be a big opportunity for exploring public-private partnerships."

The market also faces regulatory hurdles, like approvals for oncology trial procedures. In addition, tight budgets act to further restrict use of new therapies in oncology. Differential pricing of expensive drugs is another challenge. Infrastructure to handle the high incidence of cancer is still very poor in India. India does not have adequate number of comprehensive cancer treatment centers and in a country where cancer incidence is increasing at rate of 2-3% CAGR it's a huge challenge.

Today the country has 1 million new cancer patients according to 2011 (source: national cancer registry) and it will grow at a rate of 16% in the next 5 years. As per F&S report, India has close to 1,600 oncologists (including medical, surgical and radiation oncologists), thereby creating a huge shortage of surgical oncologists followed by medical oncologists. There are 30 RCCs (regional cancer centers) of which only 5 to 6 RCCs have adequately trained medical oncologists.


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