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Drug reimbursement list brings benefits to patients

Zheng Yiran
Updated: Jan 14,2020 09:05    China Daily

China's new drug reimbursement list has demonstrated the country's determination and efforts in enhancing the overall health of the public, along with encouragement for innovation from international pharmaceutical companies, a senior executive of Allergan said.

Starting Jan 1, a total of 70 new medicines covering, among other diseases, cancer, hepatitis, diabetes, and tuberculosis, are included in the new drug reimbursement list.

Ireland-based pharmaceutical giant Allergan got its first product included in the new drug reimbursement list through national negotiation. The product focuses on macular edema caused by retinal vein occlusion (RVO), an eye disease that puts about 7.4 million patients in China at risk of going blind.

"Apart from lifesaving drugs, many drugs that are closely related to improving people's quality of life are included in the new drug reimbursement list. This demonstrated that the government is determined to better enhance the overall health of the public, and that it is encouraging international pharmaceutical companies to innovate," said Allergan China unit president White Wang.

Wang Yi, a 50-year-old who has been suffering from macular edema for over a year, said the new national medical insurance policy is really a blessing for him.

Dai Hong, director of the ophthalmology department at Beijing Hospital, said that RVO is a blinding retinal eye disease which develops rapidly. If not treated in time, over 90 percent of the central retinal vein occlusion patients' final visual acuity will be lower than 0.1, causing blindness.

"Lack of treatment severely threatens patients' health and quality of life, bringing great burdens to families and the society," he said.

Apart from the eye treatment drug, some 22 anti-cancer drugs, seven drugs for rare diseases, 14 for chronic diseases and four for children are included in the new drug reimbursement list. The prices of three new drugs for hepatitis C were reduced by an average of 85 percent, according to the National Healthcare Security Administration.

After the price reduction and medical insurance reimbursements, the financial burden on patients will be reduced by over 80 percent, the NHSA said.

"In the past, the anti-cancer drug that my dad has been taking cost over 50,000 yuan per pack, which could only hold for a month. In less than a year, our family spent over 400,000 yuan on the drugs. I was planning to sell my house to save money for my dad's drug.

"Now, the drug was included in the medical insurance, lowering the price to roughly 2,000 yuan per pack," said a man whose father suffers from lung cancer. He chose to remain anonymous.

Rogers Luo, vice-president of Gilead and general manager of Gilead China, said that China's favorable policies in accelerating drug access and encouraging innovation over the past few years have promoted the research and development of new medicines, helping build a healthy drug ecology in the country.

"The policies help biopharmaceutical firms to focus on producing medicines that contain more R&D value. It benefits the public eventually, promoting the sustainability of the healthcare sector," Luo said.

"The country is accelerating the process of including innovative drugs into its national medical insurance system, which encourages foreign enterprises to focus on introducing innovative products to China, further expanding the Chinese market," said a research report of China International Capital Corp Ltd.