This buyers’ club needs all help it can get
where multinationals routinely colluded with hospitals to make healthcare virtually unaffordable to a vast number of Chinese.
So I readily acquiesced when a Chinese colleague asked if I could arrange to get medicines from India for an aunt suffering from lung cancer— the price difference for the same drug between China and India was astronomical.
It’s another matter that I couldn’t do it since no courier company in India was willing to bring in the medicine, citing Chinese regulations. This was a long time ago but the case of leukemia patient Lu Yong struck a ready chord with me— and millions of Chinese.
His story, briefly: Lu, inspired by the award-winning film Dallas Buyers Club, smuggled unapproved, Indian-made drugs for himself and about 1,000 others at prices which do not even bear comparison in China. He paid around 200 yuan ($32) for a month’s supply of a generic version of a drug – originally developed by a major multinational company— which would have cost him 23,000 yuan here and is not covered under health insurance in most cases.
The catch was the Indian drug— produced legitimately in the country under laws which allow for manufacture of generic drugs once the patents, typically held by multinationals, expire— was not approved in China and Lu was detained last month by police inHunan province for allegedly selling counterfeit drugs.
The robust Chinese social media took up his case— and whether the issue was related or not— the prosecutors dropped charges against him.
Lu will not be the last person to take to “smuggling”. Apparently, Indianmade generic versions of expensive cancer drugs are in great demand in China, online sales agents told China Daily.
A leading oncologist told this newspaper that he sympathized with Lu’s plight and called on the authorities to address the issue: “To some extent, Lu Yong and Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyers Club are all heroes struggling for their own and other people’s lives.”
After all, the “factory of the world”, which makes inexpensive goods for the rest of the world, could try its hand at making drugs affordable for its own people. Contact the writer at email@example.com