S. Korea approves Asia's first anti-leukemia drug

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SEOUL, Jan. 5 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's public health and safety agency said Thursday that it has approved the use of a locally developed anti-leukemia drug to better help people combat the potentially fatal disease.
The drug called Supect and made by Il-Yang Pharmaceutical Co. has been cleared for use after undergoing all clinical tests in the country and in India and Thailand, said the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).
Sales will begin in the first half of this year and should compete with established drugs made by U.S. and European pharmaceutical companies, it said.
Supect, made from radotinib, is the first anti-leukemia drug made in Asia and approved for use, and is the 18th new medical compound developed in the country.
"It will be used on patients who have become resistant to existing drugs such as Gleevec, Tasigna and Sprycel," the KCDC said. "The drug can also be administered to people who are non-responsive to current drugs based on such materials as imatinib, nilotinib and dasatinib."
Extensive tests have shown Supect having less side effects compared to Gleevec, which is marketed by Swiss pharmaceutical firm Novartis, the center said, adding the new drug is safer and causes no problems such as cardiotoxicity and pulmonary edema.
Besides being cleared as an alternative drug, Il-Yang said it has started additional clinical tests in 20 Asian countries such as South Korea, India, Thailand and Indonesia, so it can be given to people directly diagnosed with leukemia.
The Seoul-based company said that Supect will be priced cheaper than existing drugs and should be able to compete effectively for the US$5 billion global market. Of the total, the Asian market provides 60 percent of the demand, with an average of 300 South Koreans diagnosed with the disease every year.
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