Defying sporadic withdrawals of foreign companies and a perceived economic slowdown, AstraZeneca is adopting a "lean in" strategy in China with more locally developed drugs and wider outreach, Pascal Soriot, CEO of the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceuticals giant, told China Daily.
Tagrisso, the company's latest drug for treating lung cancer with the EFGR-mutation, is expected to receive approval in China soon. The drug has been under fast-track review, because nearly half of Chinese lung cancer patients have this mutation.
"By offering a treatment package and free products, we will market Tagrisso at the lowest possible price," Soriot said in an interview at the company's global research center in the university city of Cambridge, United Kingdom.
The commitment comes after AstraZeneca announced a 50-percent price cut in China on Iressa, another lung-cancer medicine, to step up its outreach in the country.
"For all new medicines, we are trying to register them in China quickly, with local manufacturing and local development. Our goal is to reach as many patients as possible," said Soriot.
Last year, the company bought two manufacturing plants for small-molecule and biologic medicines in Wuxi, Jiangsu province, since the country offers favorable policies to drugs first discovered and marketed at home.
In addition, AstraZeneca says it has injected million into its Wuxi headquarters to expand development facilities.
The FTSE 100 company reported 15 percent growth in China in the first nine months, following last year's 20 percent increase in sales to .5 billion.
"We are expanding from coastal cities into inland cities, reaching more patients. Not every company is doing that," said the CEO. "As the economy grows, China is a market as important as the U.S. is to us."
The Anglo-Swedish pharmaceuticals giant has set up around 12,000 nebulizer centers throughout China, while citing findings that the country has 80 million people suffering from asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).