Novartis set to bring more drugs to nation |
Home   >   Media Center   >   FDI News

Novartis set to bring more drugs to nation

By ZHOU WENTING in Shanghai CHINA DAILY Updated: 2023-07-13
Visitors gather at Novartis' booth during a trade expo in Shanghai. CHINA DAILY

Since 2022, Switzerland-based Novartis has seen 100 percent of its drug development in China achieve simultaneous development with markets worldwide, significantly narrowing the time gap between launches of new drugs in China and globally, said a senior executive of the pharmaceutical company.

It was a major breakthrough and the company was quite agile in this respect in the industry, said Shreeram Aradhye, president of global drug development and chief medical officer for Novartis.

"In the future, as we're in simultaneous development mode already, more and more drugs will be introduced into China for the first time," said Aradhye during a media interview in Shanghai last week.

"It often used to be three or five years behind for a new drug to enter China after its launch in the global market — depending on the Chinese patient data that we were waiting for. We won't have such gaps anymore," he said.

Aradhye cited the example of Pluvicto, an innovative radioligand therapeutic (RLT) for prostate cancer. RLT works by combining a targeting molecule — the ligand — that binds to a specific receptor expressed by a target cell, including cancer cells, with a radioisotope. The radiation can damage and potentially destroy the targeted cells.

He said the company is running trials with experts in China as a way to ensure that they have the readouts that will be necessary for future approval in the country.

"I visited Fudan University Shanghai Cancer Center during this China trip. It was amazing to see the energy that the professors there had for the work that they are doing, and we are partnering with them," he said.

China is one of the priority geographies globally for Novartis, he said, and the company is dedicated to ensuring that it brings high-value medicines to patients to satisfy unmet medical needs.

He added that the company is fairly rigorous in being very aware of what therapies are available and what its peer companies are working on, and then identifies rigorously the profile of a new drug that is required for it to be competitive and bring real value to patients and the healthcare system.

He mentioned Inclisiran, an innovative therapy used to lower cholesterol, as an example. There are many mature treatments like statins in this field. But the real challenge and the unmet need in the community is some bodily intolerance for statins and medication adherence.

Some patients, even if they have had a heart attack, are not able to take such medicines following doctor's orders to control cholesterol levels.

Inclisiran allows patients to control cholesterol with injections twice a year with long-lasting effects, and it is a real added value for patients, said Aradhye.

He said that the capability of the company to take on innovation challenges comes from its focused investments so that in the projects it chooses to go forward with, it is able to invest all needed efforts.

"Focus is one of the key strengths for us as a company in the last year. We have made significant progress in transforming Novartis into a focused pharmaceutical company working in five core therapeutic areas — cardiovascular, immunology, neuroscience, solid tumors and hematology — to bring high-value innovation to patients," said Aradhye.

Some of the therapeutic areas are also in line to help the country reduce burdens from an aging population and chronic diseases, said Rose Gao, who leads the company's drug development in China.

"And hopefully someday when we look back, we have no regrets about how we contributed to society," she said.

According to US industrial media Fierce Biotech, last year, the top 10 global pharmaceutical companies in terms of major business revenue cut a total of more than 50 drug development pipelines while global biopharmaceutical investment began to slow in 2022 after experiencing two years of fairly high levels during the COVID-19 pandemic.