BEIJING/LONDON (Reuters) – China has blocked GSK from participating in its bulk-buy drug procurement programme focused on off-patent medicines from Oct. 31 until April 29, 2024, over quality problems with a prostate drug, the British drugmaker said on Monday.
First reported by CCTV state television, the ban was imposed by authorities after a batch of GSK’s prostate treatment – known chemically as dutasteride and sold under the brand name Avodart – made by a Polish contract manufacturer for GSK failed a recent quality check.
No other GSK products are supplied to China through the so-called volume-based procurement (VBP) programme, a company spokesperson told Reuters.
Avodart made around 300,000 pounds ($345,900) per year of sales in China, accounting for less than 1% of GSK’s total sales in the country, according to company figures.
Beijing runs the national scheme aimed at encouraging the uptake of generic drugs and bringing down the cost of medicines. As part of the programme, drugmakers vie to sell their products in bulk at public hospitals.
The exclusion from the VBP programme represents a setback for GSK, which considers China – one of the biggest markets for biopharmaceuticals worldwide – a priority region that generated double-digit sales growth last year.
But much of that ambition is tied up in sales of its branded medicines. For instance, when GSK detailed plans in 2021 for its future as a standalone pharmaceuticals business following the spin-off of its consumer health arm, the company said it was banking on volume demand for products like its shingles vaccine Shingrix to increase in China as well as the United States.
($1 = 0.8673 pounds)
(Reporting by Beijing newsroom and Brenda Goh and Natalie Grover in London Editing by Jason Neely and Mark Potter)
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