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Insulin added to bulk-buy drug program

Wang Xiaoyu
Updated: Nov 29,2021 07:12    China Daily

Insulin manufacturers have slashed their prices by an average of 48 percent to be eligible for China's latest bulk-buy program aimed at reducing the burden of medical expenses, the National Healthcare Security Administration said.

The price cut is expected to save patients 9 billion yuan ($1.4 billion) a year, the administration said in a statement released on Nov 26.

Insulin therapy is a vital treatment for people living with diabetes to keep their blood sugar levels within a normal range.

In China, more than 116 million adults have diabetes, and the incidence rate stands at nearly 11 percent-one of the highest in the world, according to data from the International Diabetes Federation.

Ji Linong, head of Peking University People's Hospital's endocrinology department, said that about 50 million to 60 million people in China with diabetes have been diagnosed, but only 10 million of them receive regular insulin treatment.

"The latest bulk-buy program is expected to have a profound impact on boosting insulin treatment in China," he said in an interview with Health Times.

In the latest round of bidding, which closed in Shanghai on Nov 26, 16 types of products from 11 insulin manufacturers-both domestic and foreign-were successful, the administration said, citing preliminary results.

"The bidding has not only cut unreasonably high prices, but it also meets practical clinical demands," it said.

For instance, the price of insulin glargine, a widely-used type of insulin, has been lowered from 180 yuan to 70 yuan per dose. That means a patient put on the drug can save about 4,000 yuan a year.

The administration added that public medical institutions across the country are expected to purchase 210 million doses of insulin at reduced prices in the first year.

China initiated its centralized procurement program in 2018. It sees drugmakers lower medication prices in order to qualify for bulk use at public hospitals.

The latest bidding, targeting insulin alone, marks the sixth round of the program and the first round involving biological drugs, as opposed to chemical drugs.

Dong Zhaohui, an official at the administration, said in an interview with China Central Television that it has adjusted tendering and supplying protocols to tailor them to the characteristics of biological drugs.

For instance, since it usually takes longer for firms making biological drugs to step up production capacity, selected drugmakers were asked to cap the total purchase volume in agreements at under 50 percent of their maximum production capacity.

To further ensure stable supply, medical institutions will be allowed to choose to purchase from multiple insulin manufacturers.

"We will also strengthen monitoring of preparedness at selected drug companies, as well as their response to hospitals' requests and delivery speed," he said.

"If they are found to be ill-equipped or fail to meet demands, we will activate procedures to replace them with alternative firms."

China's first five rounds of centralized procurement involved 218 types of medications.

According to a plan aimed at strengthening the medical safety net that was released by the State Council, China's Cabinet, in late September, the national bulk-buy program is expected to cover more than 500 types of drugs by 2025.