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.
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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.