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China to slash medicines prices in October

Published on 06/10/09 at 08:06am

The Chinese government has announced it will cut the prices of more than 2,300 drugs by an average of 12% later this month.

The move is similar to that of western governments that are trying to reign in spending and China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said the cuts on October 22 should ease the financial burden on citizens as part of far-reaching health reforms.

China's health coverage is currently patchy, with remote and deprived areas outside its major cities suffering from poor access to medicines and limited care. The regions inhabited by poorer populations fail to attract doctors and healthcare professionals, as the patients cannot pay for their services.

But China is embarking on new health reforms, and the drug price cut is part of the wider plan it unveiled in April. The aim of this is to provide fair and affordable services to China's 1.3 billion residents by 2020.

According to the latest statement from the NDRC, the recommended retail price of about 49% of medicines will stay the same, while 6% of the listed drugs in short supply will be raised to encourage increased production.

The Ministry of Health last month issued a list of 307 medicines that satisfy healthcare needs and should be available to the public at all times in adequate amounts and in appropriate dosages.

According to the ministry's 10-year plan, about 30% of state-run grassroots clinics will have stocks of all essential medicines by the end of this year and the plan aims to urged to give these medicines priority when patients are treated.

All State-run health centres in urban and rural areas will have to give priority to the medicines by 2020. This round of price reforms will involve 2,349 specific medicines and impact on 3,000 drugs producers, the NDRC said in a statement.

Hospitals and high-margin pharmacies are the targets of the price cuts.

Producers and retailers will be able to set market prices for essential medicines based on demand, but prices should be no higher than the recommended amount, said a NDRC official who declined to be named.

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