Set to hit Chinese mainland theaters on Thursday, Chinese noir comedy Dying to Survive, directed by mainland director Wen Muye and co-produced by renowned directors Ning Hao and Xu Zheng, earned an estimated 115 million yuan from advanced limited release screenings that ran from Saturday to Wednesday.




Three years ago, Chinese merchant and leukemia patient Lu Yong was charged with selling "fake" drugs; today, his story has become the basis for a new domestic film that looks ready to win big at the Chinese box office.


The film is about Cheng Yong, played by Xu, a pharmaceutical salesman who becomes a hero by helping people get cheaper cancer medicine.The 117-minute film combines both laughter and tears, showing the humanity of one man up against the reality of society.


The film has also become one of the most discussed topics on Chinese social media, where moviegoers have passionately described the story as a "moving and realistic five-star work" and how they used up "packets of tissues" to wipe away their tears while watching the film.




Originally a textile merchant based in Wuxi, East China's Jiangsu Province, Lu Yong was diagnosed with CML in 2002 at the age of 34. Paying 23,500 yuan a month for the Novartis-produced Glivec prescribed by the hospital over a period of two years, Lu was driven to the edge of bankruptcy.  


As he set about looking for alternative treatments, Lu discovered Veenat, a generic India-produced drug that is almost equivalent to Glivec in terms of dosage, strength and quality. 

当时,这款印度药品的价格大约4000元一个月,比起格列卫来说,便宜太多了。随后陆勇开始服药,并在病友群里分享了这一消息, 很多病友于是让陆勇帮忙购买此药。

After trying the medicine himself, Lu shared the information about Veenat with his fellow patients in an instant message group and later helped hundreds of mainland CML patients who couldn't afford Glivec buy the generic version from India, according to the Global Times report.

Though Veenat and other generic versions of Glivec are approved drugs in India, they are not officially licensed in China and are therefore considered counterfeit drugs. 





While retaining most part of Lu's experiences from 2004 to 2014, Dying to Survive made several major adjustments for "artistic reasons," Wen, the film's director, told reporters at the film's Beijing premiere on Monday.


By portraying the hero Cheng Yong (played by Xu Zheng) not as a leukemia patient but as an adult store owner who starts importing medicine for money before having a change of heart, the film "showcases the profound evolution of an ordinary person," Wen explained.


Lu, who also showed up at the Monday event, admitted that he was not happy about the film's portrayal of the main character at first, but gradually came to understand why the changes were made after talking with the production team. "It should be noted that I never set out to make money from importing medicine," Lu said.


"China's drug market has undergone dramatic changes since 2015… I was one of first group of CML patients to turn to Indian-produced generic drugs, many fellow patients came to me because, at the time, CML drugs were not covered by our medical insurance system," he said.




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