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Wednesday, Jan 08, 2003

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Watershed year for diabetics

Sanjiv Shankaran

Ms Kiron Mazumdar-Shaw, Chairperson and Managing Director, Biocon India Ltd.


THE year 2003 may turn out to be a watershed for diabetics. It started with Eli Lilly (India) slashing the price of human insulin by 33 per cent in a single stroke. In a few months, Wockhardt and Biocon India plan to introduce human insulin in the domestic market.

"Our target date is October 2003," said Ms Kiron Mazumdar-Shaw, Chairman & Managing Director, Biocon India. Wockhardt is expected to launch its product by June.

A sharp drop in prices has followed the entry of domestic companies in biotech products such as vaccines.

In the case of human insulin, Eli Lilly moved from import to domestic production of insulin crystals, and used the cost-benefit to bring down the price of human insulin.

Talking to Business Line on the sidelines of a conference held here to promote a biotech event, Bangalore Bio 2003, Ms Shaw expressed surprise at the timing of the sharp drop in human insulin price. "We were prepared for a price slash, but we thought it could happen after we launched," said Ms Shaw.

According to Mr Rajiv Gulati, Chairman and Managing Director, Eli Lilly, about 70 per cent of the cost of insulin comprises storage equipment such as vials and cold chain system that is imported by Eli Lilly to meet its parent's manufacturing standard.

Subsequent reduction in the price of human insulin would depend on the sourcing of storage equipment. Biocon's insulin project operates through a 50:50 joint venture with Shanta Biotechnics.

The joint venture has a combined investment of Rs 25 crore, and proposes to carry out bulk of the production at Biocon's facilities and packaging at Shanta Bio's facilities.

Diabetes is forecast to reach epidemic proportion in India, thereby, attracting competition in the market for medicines.

Mr Gulati forecast that about 20 per cent of the diabetics in the world by 2025 would be Indians.

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