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China Rx approval slow: Lilly boss

– China takes eight years longer on average to approve drugs than other major countries and U.S. drugmakers are looking at ways to help speed things up, Eli Lilly & Co. CEO John Lechleiter said.

“This is a drug lag that I hope we are able to close in the coming years, by working with Chinese authorities to speed up the process of doing clinical trials in China,” Lechleiter said last week in an interview in Beijing. The 59-year-old executive is spending the week in China to meet with government officials and business executives as chairman of the industry group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

Lilly itself aims to conduct simultaneous late-stage tests in China for products such as the experimental diabetes drug dulaglutide, according to Lechleiter. The Indianapolis drugmaker wants to introduce more than a dozen medicines in China in the next five years, including drugs for diabetes and cancer, and aims to keep sales there growing 25 percent as they did last year, he said in March.

Drugmakers are working to expand their offerings in China, the world’s fastest-growing pharmaceuticals market, as revenue drops elsewhere, hurt by expiring patents on blockbusters. Lilly in October said quarterly earnings had missed analyst estimates after generic competition hurt revenue from the schizophrenia treatment Zyprexa, once the company’s top-selling drug.

Lechleiter said “prospects are good” for further expansion of Lilly’s drug-manufacturing operations in China. The company opened a second plant in June this year in the eastern city of Suzhou.

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