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China’s centralized drug-procurement program provides cheaper medicines

Fifty-five types of medicine listed in China’s third-round centralized drug-procurement program have become available in public hospitals across the country at much lower prices, the National Healthcare Security Administration said Thursday.

The medicines, with an average price cut of 53 percent, include those widely prescribed for diabetes, high blood pressure, infections and cancers, the administration said.

China initiated a trial of the centralized drug procurement in 2019. Since then, three rounds of the procurement have covered 112 varieties of medicine, with their average price down 54 percent.

Based on the reimbursement rate of 60 percent, the program is estimated to save 21.6 billion yuan (about 3.34 billion U.S. dollars) for public hospital patients and 32.3 billion yuan for the medical insurance fund annually, the administration said.

According to Prof. Hu Shanlian at the School of Public Health of Fudan University, the program will lead to reduction in prices of drugs not yet included in the program. This will have a ripple effect and could see pharmacies and private medical institutions lower drug prices, Hu said.

More medicines with large demands and high prices are expected to be covered by the centralized drug-procurement program, Hu added.

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