Friday, September 22, 2017
China: Source of Opioid Production
Opioid boom in China as patients lose addiction fears Painkiller.Synthetic opioids have become the star performers in China’s pharmaceutical market. The market for painkillers in China grew 20 per cent last year to reach Rmb3.6bn ($530m), according to the China Pharmaceutical Industry Association, more than twice the rate of the overall drug market, which is the world’s second largest. Lung cancer is China’s most common disease, due to high rates of smoking and air pollution. “The development of treatment for late-stage cancer is the cause,” said Fan Bifa, director of China’s national centre for pain treatment. “The pain of advanced stage cancer patients is intense . . . generally we will use opioids in accordance with guidelines.” Increased spending on dental surgery and a growth in surgical operations had also driven demand, e added. China has traumatic historical memories of opioid abuse after Britain forced it to accept imports of opium from British India in the 19th century, leading to widespread addiction that was mostly eradicated brutally, by the Communist party after it seized power in 1949. A continued stigma about opioids created a reluctance to use them among doctors and patients alike because of associations with addiction. But China’s government has driven a change in attitudes with a “good pain management” programme launched in 2011, which trains hospital staff to recognise different levels of pain and “provide effective relief through timely dispensation of medication”. Zhao Bing, a China healthcare specialist in UBS securities, said: “In recent years pain treatment has been getting more and more clinical attention. Hospitals across the country have established outpatient pain management clinics.” Rather than arriving on the ships of foreign merchants, now most of the opioids consumed in China are locally produced. With a nearly 40 per cent market share last year, the Yangtze River Pharmaceutical Group’s dezocine was the bestselling painkiller in China, according to CNPIC data. The drug is mostly used after surgery. By contrast, the most popular foreign brand is Bard Pharma’s Oxycodone, with a 6.5 per cent market share. Companies see high growth potential as Chinese painkiller sales are small compared with an overall pharmaceutical market worth nearly $117bn last year, according to QuintilesIMS, the health research company. The Chinese market is just one-twentieth the size of the US’s, where a slow-burning epidemic of opioid use has seen prescription rates more than double since the early 1990s, while tens of thousands have died of overdoses. The third most popular painkiller in China last year was Sufentanil, which has also seen growing rates of addiction in the US. As the US government tries to tackle the epidemic by discouraging physicians from prescribing painkillers for chronic pain, companies are seeking growth in emerging markets such as China. Mundipharma, which produces OxyContin — a drug that has intensified the addiction crisis in the US — has launched a large-scale campaign in China involving cartoon videos aimed at both doctors and patients. So far staff from more than 6,000 hospitals across China viewed online lectures hosted by Mundipharma’s platform to promote pain treatment some 64,000 times, according to the company’s website.