Dying to Survive

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Dying to Survive
MandarinWǒ Bú Shì Yào Shén
LiterallyI'm Not a Medicine God
Directed byWen Muye
Produced by
Written by
  • Han Jianü
  • Zhong Wei
  • Wen Muye
CinematographyWang Boxue
Edited byZhu Lin
  • Dirty Monkey Films Group
  • Beijing Joy Leader Culture Communication Co.
  • Huanxi Media Group
  • Beijing Jingxi Culture & Tourism Co.
  • Beijing Universe Cultural Development Co.
  • Beijing Talent International Film Co.
Release date
Running time
117 minutes
Budget$10.9 million[1]
Box office$453 million[2]

Dying to Survive is a 2018 Chinese comedy-drama film[3] directed by Wen Muye in his feature film debut. The film is based on the real-life story of Lu Yong (陆勇), a Chinese leukemia patient who smuggled cheap but unproven cancer medicine from India for 1,000 Chinese cancer sufferers in 2004.[4][5] Dying to Survive stars Xu Zheng in the lead role, who also co-produced the film with Ning Hao.


An aphrodisiac peddler, Cheng Yong, is in financial trouble. His store has not been making profits for a long time and his father urgently needs a large sum of money for brain surgery.

One day a man wearing thick layers of surgical masks comes to his shop. He asks Cheng to bring a cheap drug from India in return for a large sum of money. Due to patent protection, the Swiss drug Imatinib is very expensive and cannot be afforded by most leukemia patients in China. However, a special inexpensive generic version of it is available in India.

Desperate for money, Cheng agrees to risk smuggling the drug into China. As more chronic myelogenous leukemia patients start to buy drugs from him, Cheng becomes rich. His motivation started to change after he witnessed devastated patients whose family has been pushed into poverty by costly cancer treatments, walk away with hope for the future.

At the same time, Chinese police notice the availability of the contraband Geliening and vow to crack down on the unlicensed generic drug, as the originator company Novartis sued the Indian government for infringing its patent.


  • Xu Zheng as Cheng Yong
  • Tan Zhuo as Liu Sihui
  • Wang Chuanjun as Lü Shouyi
  • Wang Yanhui as Zhang Changlin
  • Zhang Yu as Peng Hao
  • Zhou Yiwei as Cao Bin
  • Yang Xinmin as Pastor Liu
  • Gong Beibi as Cao Ling, Cheng Yong's ex-wife and Cao Bin's elder sister
  • Keith Shillitoe
  • Jia Chenfei
  • Li Naiwen
  • Wang Jiajia as Lü Shouyi's wife
  • Ning Hao
  • Shahbaz Khan
  • Nishith Avinash Shah as Translator

Box office[edit]

On opening day, the film topped the Chinese box office and grossed $49.71 million, including preview screenings.[6] By the end of its opening weekend, the film had grossed $199.58 million,[7] the fourth biggest opening weekend ever in China.[8] As of September 15, 2018, the film has grossed $453 million, becoming the year's third highest-grossing film at the Chinese box office.[9]

Critical reception[edit]

Pang-Chieh Ho of SupChina wrote that Dying to Survive "might be China's best movie of the year". She compared the film's social realist themes to Hollywood film Dallas Buyers Club, Indian film Dangal, and Chinese film Angels Wear White.[10] Though Simon Abrams of RogerEbert.com also compared the film to Dallas Buyers Club, he gave Dying to Survive two out of four stars, criticizing the excessive focus on Cheng to the detriment of the film's message and at the expense of other characters. He stated that "I’d have an easier time accepting the trite, asked-and-answered conclusions... if [the director and co-writers] were more adept at tugging at viewers' heart-strings."[11]


The film sparked debate about the cost of medical care among Chinese people. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang cited the film in an appeal to regulators to "speed up price cuts for cancer drugs" and "reduce the burden on families".[12]


Award Category Recipients Result
55th Golden Horse Awards Best Feature Film Dying to Survive Nominated
Best Leading Actor Xu Zheng Won
Best Supporting Actor Zhang Yu Nominated
Best New Director Wen Muye Won
Best Original Screenplay Han Jianü, Zhong Wei and Wen Muye Won
Best Makeup & Costume Design Li Miao Nominated
Best Film Editing Jolin Zhu Nominated
14th Changchun Film Festival Best Feature Film Dying to Survive Won
Best Leading Actor Xu Zheng Won
Best Screenplay Han Jianv, Zhong Wei and Wen Muye Won
Best Supporting Actor Wang Chuanjun Won
42nd Montreal World Film Festival Best Screenplay Han Jianv, Zhong Wei and Wen Muye Won
5th Silk Road International Film Festival Best Feature Film Dying to Survive Won
Hainan International Film Festival[13] Best Film Dying to Survive Won
38th Hong Kong Film Awards Best Film from Mainland and Taiwan Dying to Survive Pending

Real case[edit]

Yong Lu of Wuxi, Jiangsu, owner of the Wuxi Zhensheng Knitwear Co., Ltd., was a patient with chronic myeloid leukemia and the inspiration of the movie "Dying to Survive". Lu Yong was called "the first person to purchase anticancer drugs" because he shared the purchase of the imitation "Gleevec" Indian anticancer drug channel for more than a thousand netizens.

In 2002, he was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia. The doctor recommended that he take anti-cancer called "Gleevec" produced by Swiss Novartis. The price of the drug was as high as 23,500 yuan, and a patient with chronic myeloid leukemia needs to take one box per month.[citation needed]

In June 2004, Lu Yong accidentally learned that the imitation "Gleevec" anticancer drug produced in India was of almost the same quality, but offered at a price of only 4,000 yuan for a box. The comparison of the two Gleevec comparison tests in India and Switzerland showed that the drug similarity was 99.9%. Later, Lu Yong helped thousands of patients to buy this drug.[citation needed]

On July 21, 2014, the Qijiang City Procuratorate arrested Lu Yonggong to the Qijiang City Court on charges of “damaging credit card management” and “selling fake drugs”.[citation needed]

On January 27, 2015, the Qijiang City Procuratorate requested the court to withdraw the lawsuit against Lu Yong, and the court made a ruling on the “withdrawal of the lawsuit” on the same day.

After Lu Yong was arrested, more than 300 patients jointly called him to plead, and he hoped that the judiciary could find Lu Yong not guilty.[citation needed]

On the afternoon of January 29, 2015, the Hunan Qijiang City Procuratorate made a final decision, arguing that Lu Yong's behavior did not constitute a crime, and decided not to sue, Lu Yong was released.[citation needed]

After release, Lu Yong wants to set up a volunteer organization or charitable foundation to serve leukemia patients. "One can end the weakness of single-handedness, and secondly, it can better serve more professionally and professionally."[citation needed]


  1. ^ "《我不是药神》使北京文化涨停 会不会再现过山车?" ["I am not a drug god" to make Beijing cultural daily limit will reproduce the roller coaster?]. Sina Corp. Retrieved 3 July 2018.
  2. ^ "Dying To Survive (2018)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 15 September 2018.
  3. ^ Tartaglione, Nancy (10 July 2018). "'Ant-Man And The Wasp' Zaps $86M In Debut; China's 'Dying To Survive' Prescribes $200M – International Box Office". Deadline. Retrieved 12 July 2018.
  4. ^ Hunwick, Robert Foyle (2014-12-22). "Chinese 'Dallas Buyers Club' founder charged with fraud". The Daily Telegraph.
  5. ^ Patranobis, Sutirtho (2018-06-04). "Movie on Chinese patients buying Indian cancer drugs triggers massive pre-release buzz". Hindustan Times.
  6. ^ "Daily Box Office > China (07/05/2018)". EntGroup. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
  7. ^ "Daily Box Office > China (07/08/2018)". EntGroup. Retrieved 8 July 2018.
  8. ^ Tartaglione, Nancy (8 July 2018). "'Ant-Man And The Wasp' Zaps $85M In Debut; China's 'Dying To Survive' Prescribes $200M – International Box Office". Deadline.
  9. ^ "2018 China Yearly Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 15 September 2018.
  10. ^ Ho, Pang-Chieh. "'Dying to Survive,' a comedy about illegally importing drugs, might be China's best movie of the year". SupChina. Retrieved 6 July 2018.
  11. ^ Abrams, Simon (9 August 2019). "Dying to Survive Movie Review". RogerEbert.com. Ebert Digital LLC. Retrieved 19 August 2019.
  12. ^ "Cancer drug movie strikes nerve in China, becomes box-office hit". Reuters. 18 July 2018.
  13. ^ Fan, Xu (20 December 2018). "New adventure". China Daily.

[1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

External links[edit]

  • ^ Zhang Liangqin Cui Xin. "I am just a lucky cancer patient", Jiangsu Net, China, 20 July 2018. Retrieved on 8 January 2019.
  • ^ Tang Yanfei. "I am not a drug god" prototype Lu Yong: "There are fewer people looking for me to buy medicine now, it is a good thing.", Guancha [zh], China, 6 July 2018. Retrieved on 8 January 2019.
  • ^ Yang Fenglin. "The anti-cancer drug "purchasing the first person" was sued, and more than 100 leukemia people jointly called for decriminalization", Guangming Network, China, 31 January 2015. Retrieved on 8 January 2019.
  • ^ Qian Weihua. "Anti-cancer drug "purchasing the first person" Lu Yong was arrested 300 patients had pleaded for it", Netease News, China, 1 January 2015. Retrieved on 8 January 2019.
  • ^ Li Yan. ""The first person to purchase cancer drugs" was finally acquitted.", Netease News, China, 11 April 2015. Retrieved on 8 January 2019.