Patients in Cuba will have better access to therapy for lymphoma and rheumatoid arthritis

The Ministry of Health of the Republic of Cuba (CECMED) has approved biosimilar rituximab developed by BIOCAD, a Russian biotech company. First supplies of the BIOCAD's rituximab are scheduled for late 2018, and market analysts expect it to make the treatment of lymphomas and rheumatoid arthritis more affordable for the Cuban patients.
 
In Cuba, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia affect about 1000 persons every year, and approximately 700 of them die because of the disease. Rheumatoid arthritis is also a major issue since about 1% of the Cuban population suffer from this condition. About 30% of rheumatoid arthritis patients need biologic disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs; otherwise, young and socially active people would progress to disability in a matter of years.
 
Rituximab is an active ingredient of the original drug Mabthera® developed by Roche. This therapeutic monoclonal antibody is intended for the treatment of certain cancers and autoimmune conditions: non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, rheumatoid arthritis, Wegener's
disease, and microscopic polyangiitis. The cost of the original rituximab drug in Cuba is $350 per 100 mg and $1680 per 500 mg, which translates into $19K for a 1-year therapy course for lymphoma and up to $13K for a 1-year treatment course for rheumatoid arthritis.
 
The total sales of rituximab, original and biosimilars, in the LatAm countries in 2017 were approximately $259 million with $5.2 million in Cuba alone. A biosimilar by CIMAB will be a competitor in the marketplace, although this drug has not yet been approved. Thus, the Russian rituximab biosimilar can
help to increase access to lymphoma and rheumatoid arthritis therapy for Cuban patients. As Latin America is a promising market with the annual growth rate of up to 8% BIOCAD also plans to start supplying its rituximab biosimilar to Peru, Ecuador, and Argentina by the end of the year.
 
Importantly, after bevacizumab, trastuzumab, and rituximab biosimilars entered the international market in 2016-2017 and, thus, significantly reduced the cost of cancer treatments for patients in Southeast Asia, North Africa, and Latin America, the demand for the drug products of the company has increased substantially. BIOCAD is now partnering with over 50 countries all over the globe and, in the near future, plans to increase the share of its export contracts to 50% from the total contract amount.

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