Pharmaceutical News
Cancer drugs dominated the 2016 chart of best-selling drugs in Taiwan

Reported by Lee Shu-Jen and Chiang Hui-Chun from Taipei


According to the 2016 drug sales data in Taiwan (including both NHI and private markets), half of the top 10 best-selling drugs, in terms of sales, were cancer treatments.  However, looking at the NHI data alone, the top 10 drugs were mainly treatments for the “three high conditions” (high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high blood sugar).  Janice Chen, the Chairperson of the NHI PBRS Meeting, pointed out that cancer treatments have become the healthcare item which imposes the heaviest financial burden on the people in Taiwan.

According to the survey conducted by IMS Health Taiwan, the top 10 best-selling drugs in terms of sales in Taiwan last year were: Herceptin, Entecavir, Glivec, Plavix, Crestor, Lipitor, Alimta, Nexavar, Adalimumab and Avastin.  The top 6 best-selling drugs were the same as in 2015.  The sales of Herceptin, a target therapy for breast cancer, were NT$2.43 billion last year.

However, Crestor was the No. 1 drug on the NHI chart.  It received the highest NHI payment in 2016, about NT$2.3 billion.

In terms of drug access, Norvasc and other anti-hypertensive drugs with the same ingredients as Norvasc reached the highest number of patient-times in Taiwan, about 1.5 million patient-times a year.

Janince Chen expressed that cancers have become a chronic condition as the treatments advance.  The developments of the first, second and third generations of target therapies for cancers bring about a heavy financial burden on patients.  As the patents of most drugs for treating the “three high conditions” expired, their costs are spiralling down.  In the future, the cost of cancer treatment will continue dominating the nation’s health expenditure. 

Gu Po-Jen, President of the Taiwan Pharmacist Association, pointed out that as the population is ageing, it is foreseeable that there will be an increase in the spending on treatments for cancers and “three high conditions”.  The government should tackle this issue by imposing an NHI premium hike or implementing co-payment for drugs.


【2017-02-24/ United Daily】