KATHMANDU, Feb 20: Hospitals providing cancer treatment have received more patients in recent years. Another indication of the rising incidence of cancer here is the fact that an Indian pharmaceuticals company has entered the country to build a cancer drug plant in Bhaktapur to cash in on the demand.
Tizig Pharma Pvt. Ltd., which is to invest Rs 351 million, will be the first of its kind in Nepal. The sole investor in the 100 percent FDI venture is Venkatesham Ambati, an Indian citizen.
Asked why they are going to produce cancer drugs in Nepal, the Indian investors said there is a huge demand of anti-cancer drugs in Nepal, according to Khagendra Basnet, director of the Department of Industry (DoI).
The plant will produce 400,000 boxes of tablets and capsules including 150,000 boxes of anti-cancer drugs every year, according to the investment permission issued to the company by DoI in December.
Basnet further said, "Producing cancer drugs in Nepal is financially feasible. But Nepal becoming a feasible market for anti-cancer drug producers is not good news from the point of view of society although it may be good for investors." The company said it will provide jobs to 88 people.
However, domestic drug manufacturers said producing anti-cancer drugs only for the domestic market may not be feasible and the Indian firm may have targeted exports to India as the supply of such drugs are heavily restricted in any country. Supply access is easy in Nepal only.
There is no production of medicines for serious diseases of the heart, kidney and other organs. According to the Department of Drug Administration, drugs worth Rs 16.5 billion are produced domestically every year ( 46 percent of total supply) while drugs worth Rs 19.45 billion (54 percent) are imported, including 52 percent imported from India.
Cancer diagnosis has increased in recent years as the number of cancer-specialized hospitals has increased. But the government has no official record of cancer patients, according to Dr Anjani Kumar Jha, executive chairman of Nepal Health Research Council. Dr Jha said they have started keeping official records of cancer cases in Kathmandu Valley since January. He blamed increasing air pollution, excessive use of pesticides and insecticides in crops and vegetables and the unhealthy sex lives of migrant workers for the rise in cancer cases.
Currently, the government provides Rs 100,000 to each cancer patient who is needy.
Hari Bhakta Sharma, executive director of Deurali-Janta Pharmaceuticals Pvt. Ltd., welcomed the foreign investment in cancer drug production.
"It is not immediately possible for Nepali manufactures to set up cancer drug manufacturing here as such medicines are heavily controlled in the world outside Nepal," added Sharma.