BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China on Tuesday added 148 drugs to its list of medicines covered by basic medical insurance schemes, part of a push to lower patients’ out-of-pocket costs in one of the world’s largest drug markets, state media reported.
AstraZeneca’s Kombiglyze and Merck & Co’s Janumet diabetes treatments are among the drugs that will now be covered by national insurance, according to the updated list published by China’s National Healthcare Security Administration.
Its last major overhaul in 2017 was seen at the time as a much welcomed fillip for drugmakers as many patients had opted not to try new drugs because of high costs. Prior to that, it had not been updated for 8 years.
As it published the updated list of 2,643 drugs on its website on Tuesday, the healthcare administration said the adjustment was crucial to improving the efficient use of the country’s medical insurance funds.
State news agency Xinhua said 47 western drugs and 101 traditional Chinese drugs were added to the updated list, covering medicines for cancers, rare diseases, chronic diseases and children’s diseases, as well as some basic drugs.
The administration also removed 150 drugs which were considered to be of low clinical value or which could be substituted by products with better therapeutic effects from the list, it said in statements issued alongside the list.
An additional list that includes costly drugs of high clinical value will be finalized later after further negotiation with pharmaceutical manufacturers, the administration said.
Local governments will subsidize between 50% and 100% of the costs of medicines on the list, which is expected to boost patients’ willingness to use high-quality foreign brand-name drugs that would otherwise be unaffordable.
China has become a bright spot for global pharmaceutical companies as Beijing increases its healthcare spending and fast-tracks the approval process for new drugs.
Chinese sales for British drugmaker AstraZeneca soared 44% in the second quarter this year, accounting for over half of its sales in the developing world.
(Reporting by Roxanne Liu and Brenda Goh; Editing by Jan Harvey)