China is considering setting up a system that will ensure
accessibility to a range of basic medicines and prevent
manufacturers from circumventing existing price controls.
The system would include a catalogue of basic drugs that would
be produced and distributed under government control and
supervision, Mao Qun'an, a spokesman of the Ministry of Health,
told a press briefing Monday.
Mao said the catalogue could include 300 to 400 basic drugs
covering 80 percent of the most prescribed medicines and "greatly
lower the burden of people's medical expenditures."
Since the late 1970s and early 1980s, the central government has
reduced its health care funding resulting in deficits for public
health institutions and a significant drop in the number of people
covered by health care.
This forced hospitals to generate their own revenue by
aggressively selling drugs and extra services driving up the health
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 cuts have not been the cure
since drug manufacturers often change the name and packaging of
their drugs to escape the price controls announced by the NDRC.
Some hospitals and clinics have also turned a blind eye to
government price caps and have refused to prescribe lower priced
China's Health Minister Gao Qiang said earlier in his 2007 work
report that the Health Ministry believes that the catalogue of
basic drugs should be complied with the principle of "safety,
effectiveness, necessity and low cost".
The Health Ministry also called for tightened control on the
production, distribution and pricing of drugs to guarantee their
Drug pricing falls with the jurisdiction of several Chinese
state departments, including the NDRC and the State Food and Drug
(Xinhua News Agency February 13, 2007)