CANCER: Need seen for ‘further measures’
Rather than pay an exorbitant price, Lu, a wealthy businessman, turned to an Indianmade generic version called Veenat, which sold for about 200 yuan a box.
Lu was eventually released in January 2015 after prosecutors withdrew the charges following petitions from more than 300 people with leukemia, who called for his release.
“Most of the patients I know have heard about the new policies, including the exemption from import tariffs, to reduce the price of antineoplastic drugs,” Lu says.
“We are all thrilled and hope the price can be reduced further. We have not seen a reduction in the price yet, but maybe we will see a difference in a few months when new batches of imported drugs arrive.”
Li Ling, a professor of economics at Peking University who focuses on health policy studies, says more than half of the antineoplastic drugs available in China are imported and, until recently, they cost far more than in many other countries for several reasons — including import tariffs of between 5 and 8 percent and value-added tax levied at 17 percent.
The recent measures, including the reduction of VAT to 3 percent, could see the price fall by about 20 percent.
“Further measures are needed to significantly reduce the prices of the drugs, such as centralized government procurement and incorporating them into medical care insurance programs,” Li says. “The reimbursement rates for antineoplastic drugs should also be raised,” she adds, referring to the practice whereby patients bill their insurance company for the cost of medication and the money is remitted to them.
Yu, from the National Health Commission, says that since 2016, the commission and the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security have held negotiations with pharmaceutical companies about the prices of 39 patented drugs, including 17 antineoplastic treatments.
The talks resulted in the prices of the 39 drugs being reduced by more than half on average, and they have all been included in the reimbursement list for national medical insurance programs, according to Yu, who adds that the measures had saved patients 6.2 billion yuan by April 18.
“Further similar measures will be taken to lower the prices of antineoplastic drugs to benefit patients,” he says.
Chen Jinfu, director of the medical insurance division at the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, says many of the antineoplastic drugs affected by the recent changes are widely used and highly reliable but expensive.
They include Herceptin, a breast cancer treatment developed by Roche, a pharmaceutical company in Switzerland.
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