Onglyza, or saxagliptin, used to treat type 2 diabetes in
adults has been launched by AstraZeneca, an expensive alternative at Rs.38 per
tablet compared to Rs.3 for conventional drugs. But, say experts, conventional
drugs have limitations where hypoglycemia
(low sugar) and weight gain are concerned, while the gliptins can
control all blood readings i.e. over three months, fasting and PP (post meals.)
At the moment, diabetes if uncontrolled is being treated
with metformin and second-generation sulfonylureas. Out of more than 40 million
diabetic patients in India,
60% are on these drugs or their variants, a market worth about Rs 2,000 crore.
A collaboration between Astrazeneca's Onglyza and
Bristor-Myers diabetes drug, Dapaglifozin, is now in Phase III trials with 2012
Says Anoop Misra, director of diabetes and metabolic
diseases division at Fortis Hospital in New
Delhi, "These molecules are very effective
particularly for patients whose diabetes has progressed to a point where conventional
drugs are not useful, but a new drug in the same class of molecules will
directly benefit patients if competition leads to lower prices."
But the pricing factor is likely to be a major block.