Boost for "made in China" medicine as Chi-Med wins key approval

LONDON, Sept 5 (Reuters) - Hutchison China MediTech has won Chinese approval for a closely watched new cancer drug in a significant boost for “made in China” medicine.

The London-listed company - which is known as Chi-Med and is collaborating with Eli Lilly on the drug - said on Wednesday that the National Medical Products Administration of China had approved Elunate or fruquintinib in colorectal cancer.

It is one of the first modern medicines discovered and developed in China, and the speedy green light from Chinese authorities is further evidence of the country’s progress in speeding up drug approvals.

Elunate will only be rolled out in the United States and Europe following its Chinese approval - a marked reversal from the historical pattern, which has seen patients in China getting new drugs years after their arrival in Western markets.

“Elunate is the first home-grown, China-discovered and developed drug we are aware of in an oncology indication to be unconditionally approved through a randomized clinical trial in China,” said Chi-Med chairman Simon To.

China is now the world’s second-biggest drug market - after the U.S. - and it is gaining in importance for global pharmaceuticals companies’ growth plans.

AstraZeneca and its partner FibroGen also hope to score a China-first drug approval before the end of 2018 with their new anaemia drug roxadustat, which could win approval in China before its does so it the U.S. or Europe. (Reporting by Ben Hirschler)