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China approves its 1st biosimilar version of Roche's Avastin

Chinese regulators gave approval to the country's first biosimilar of Roche Holding AG's blockbuster cancer drug Avastin, according to a statement by the National Medical Products Administration, or NMPA, on Dec. 9.

A biosimilar is a copycat of an already approved biologic medicine and is usually sold at a cheaper price compared to the original product. Biologic medicines are derived from living cells and are harder to copy than synthetic drugs in pills and tablets.

The Avastin biosimilar, developed by Shandong, China-based Qilu Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., will be used to treat patients with colorectal cancer and non-small cell lung cancer that has advanced, spread or returned. The therapy aims to halt the growth of cancer by blocking a protein called vascular endothelial growth factor, or VEGF, to prevent the generation of new blood vessels, including normal blood vessels and those that feed tumors.

Avastin, developed by Roche's unit Genentech Inc., generated sales of about $1.83 billion in the third quarter of 2019.

The Chinese regulators in February 2019 also approved Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical (Group) Co. Ltd.'s HLX01, a biosimilar of Rituxan, another blockbuster medicine from Roche.