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More talks sought to drop cancer drug costs

Wang Xiaoyu
Updated: Feb 20,2019 7:00 AM     China Daily

The country’s top medical insurance regulator plans more talks with pharmaceutical companies to lower the prices of cancer drugs, following negotiations last year that are thought to have benefited a large number of patients.

In October, 17 cancer-related medications were introduced to China’s basic medical insurance program, meaning they would be eligible for reimbursement, according to the National Healthcare Security Administration.

As of year’s end, about 45,000 reimbursed payments for these drugs totaling 256 million yuan ($38 million) had been processed, said Xiong Xianjun, head of the administration’s department that compiles the insurance program list. He spoke on Feb 19.

Xiong said larger reimbursements were made possible by negotiations with pharmaceutical companies in September, leading to price reductions.

Average reductions were 56.7 percent, Xiong said, adding that imported drugs can be purchased at a price about 36 percent lower than in nearby countries and regions.

Medical institutions and drugstores across the country made purchases at the newly capped prices of 184 million units of medication last year. They cost about 562 million yuan, a cost that, given the particular drugs purchased, would have been almost triple the amount if bought at their original prices.

“This year, we’re eyeing more negotiations with drug manufacturers to lower prices of more cancer drugs, especially the lifesaving types and those in critical need,” he said at a news conference organized by the State Council Information Office.

In recent years, China has raced to help cancer patients by pushing down drug prices, accelerating inspection and approval procedures for new drugs developed overseas, and improving medical services needed by the patients.

Price negotiations, first tested by China in 2015, are expected to play a larger role in making cancer drugs more affordable and reducing patients’ financial burden, he said.

The administration said earlier this month that 34 medications that treat major cancers, including the 17 newly added drugs, have been included in the basic medical insurance program.

Li Bin, vice-minister of the National Health Commission, said 802 cancer or other specialist hospitals had purchased these drugs and 259 among them bought at least four by year’s end.

The commission has urged all medical institutions to stock an adequate supply of such cancer drugs, and medical institutions should refrain from citing excuses to keep from doing so like the need to contain costs, Li said.

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