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China’s insurance expansion boon to global pharma

Published on 23/02/17 at 10:39am

China has expanded the list of medicines that are covered on basic medical insurance schemes, named China’s National Reimbursement Drug List. The list has increased by 339 drugs on the update, with the last update to the list occurring eight years ago in 2009.

The list of medicine now numbers 2,535 in total with 339 added to the list in its recent expansion. The expansion comes as a bonus to the pharmaceutical industry, as growth in sales in China is notoriously slow. The list contains drugs by AstraZeneca, Shire and GSK, which will see volumes of sales improve – though the pricing, and therefore margins, will be lower.

The list of medicine produced in ‘Western-style’ increased by 113 to a total number of 1,297. The pharmaceutical market in China is the second-largest pharmaceutical market in the world.

Previously the Chinese public, if they required treatment that was not covered by the list of drugs on the list would have to purchase the drugs themselves. The trouble being that the medications are expensive and many cannot afford to purchase the best-available treatment meaning that some resort to the black market or unproven remedies while others take out costly loans.

AstraZeneca’s Iressa is included on the list, which means it will now see the cost price of the drug fall. The move may actually be a welcome one to AstraZeneca, given that a generic version of Iressa was recently released onto the market.

Ben Hargreaves

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