Business / Markets

Medical stocks reel amid calls for ban on controversial treatment

By Zhu Wenqian (China Daily) Updated: 2016-05-06 07:50

Calls by the National Health and Family Planning Commission, at its conference on Wednesday, for a halt to cellular immunotherapy as a treatment for cancer had a negative impact on more than 20 related listed medical companies.

Shanghai Haixin Group Co Ltd saw its shares decline 2.46 percent on Thursday, despite the benchmark index and most other shares edged higher.

The group's subsidiary Shanghai Haixin Biotechnology Co, together with the Second Military Medical University, co-developed antigen pulsed human dendritic cells, China's first self-developed therapeutic vaccine.

Shares in other medical companies, including Zhejiang Conba Pharmaceutical Co, Shanghai Canature Environmental Products Co, Anhui Anke Biotechnology Co, and Guanhao Biotech, all suffered declines by the close.

Those companies cooperated with domestic and overseas institutions on cellular immunotherapy research-a new class of cancer treatment that works to harness the innate powers of the immune system.

Another related company, Zhuhai Hokai Medical Instruments Co, suspended trading in its shares.

The NHFPC conference made it clear that cellular immunotherapy was still at the clinical research stage, and should be operated in accordance with relevant procedures.

The NHFPC will prohibit hospitals from outsourcing departments through disguised ways, and strengthen the supervision of medical technology and equipment.

Insiders revealed that hospitals are required to stop their current outsourcing projects, and to report projects to the NHFPC.

At the clinical research stage, cellular immunotherapy should only be used for clinical studies.

As a result, those primary healthcare institutions without qualifications will be regulated in applied immunotherapy, and institutions that are eligible for clinical trials will be still allowed to carry out the businesses.

Currently, listed domestic companies offering cellular immunotherapy technologies mainly use cytokine-induced killer and DC-CIK treatments.

The 21-year-old cancer patient Wei Zexi, whose death has been highlighted recently in the media, received that treatment before his death.

Analysts said low-end technologies, including CIK and DC-CIK, will be encouraged out the market.

CAR-T and TCR-T cellular therapies, meanwhile, will become the mainstream cancer treatments.

Ji Xuwo, a healthcare analyst at Orient Securities in Beijing, said: "Compared with traditional DC-CIK technologies, we are bullish on the growth potential of the CAR-T Cell therapy market, and the investment prospects of related companies, including Anhui Anke Biotechnology (Group) Co Ltd.

"The death of Wei Zexi is expected to urge the authorities to accelerate their launch of standardized regulations for the cellular therapy industry in China," Ji said.

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