Struggling to control rising drug prices, China is pining hopes
on a "basic medicine system" to quell public complaints of limited
accessibility of medicines.
"High drug prices are the major reason for high medical expenses.
The key to this problem is to set up a basic medicine system,"
China's Health Minister Gao Qiang told reporters on the sidelines
of the ongoing parliamentary session.
The system, which includes a catalogue of necessary drugs that
would be produced and distributed under government control and
supervision, can help ensure the accessibility to a range of basic
medicines and prevent manufacturers and business people from
circumventing existing price controls, Gao said.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the central government reduced
its health care funding, resulting in deficits for public health
institutions. This move forced hospitals to generate their own
revenue by aggressively selling drugs.
To stem the tide of rising public complaints about high medical
costs, China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC)
has capped the cost of hundreds of drugs.
However, critics argue that the price cuts have not been the cure
since drug manufacturers often change the name and packaging of
their drugs to escape price controls.
Some hospitals and clinics have also turned a blind eye to
government price caps and refused to prescribe lower priced
Gao said disorders are seen in the drug production, distribution
and use, which not only cause high drug prices but also upset the
public. "I myself am also very dissatisfied."
He said the catalogue can be set up on the basis of 300 to 400
drugs that recommended by the World Health Organization every
"The government must take actions to tighten control and
supervision of the production, purchasing and distribution of the
drugs to ensure that they are safe and sold at affordable prices,"
Drug pricing in China currently falls with the jurisdiction of
several departments, including the NDRC and the State Food and Drug
(Xinhua News Agency March 8, 2007)