Bangalore: Biotechnology firm, Biocon Ltd, on Thursday launched a range of cheap drugs to treat kidney diseases it warned were becoming a silent epidemic in the country.
Bangalore-based Biocon, which unveiled the drugs on World Kidney Day, said it plans to market five medicines in several countries at least 30% cheaper than those sold by larger drug companies such as Novartis.
“We are committed to developing affordable drugs of high quality,” said Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, who heads Biocon and is reputed to be India’s richest woman.
“Kidney disease is life-threatening and is on the increase, while treatment is expensive.”
In India, a nation of 1.1 billion people, up to 100,000 are affected with kidney diseases such as renal failure every year, according to Biocon, which billed it as the “silent epidemic of the 21st century.”
The international market for kidney drugs is estimated at an annual $3.3 billion (Rs14,625 crore) and India, where only 20% of the patients can afford treatment, accounts for about $70 million.
“The only way of preventing kidney disease is to have regular preventive check-ups,” Mazumdar-Shaw told reporters in Bangalore. “But we are always taking our body for granted.”
After launching the drugs in India, Biocon plans to target the Persian Gulf region and Latin America, said Mazumdar-Shaw, adding it may offer some of the products for overseas companies to manufacture under license.
The drugs were launched by Sudha Murthy, wife of N.R. Narayana Murthy, chief mentor of Indian software maker Infosys Technologies Ltd and the elder statesman of the industry.
Murthy presented packs of the medicines to three female patients brought from different hospitals.
“The kidney does an enormous amount of work,” said Murthy. “Unfortunately, you aren’t aware of it until you fall prey to disease.”