CPPCC Member Concerned With Medicine Prices

A professor from the Beijing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine called for the government to take measures to drive down the prices of medicines.

Fang Tingyu, a member of the Ninth National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), is attending the annual session of Committee, which opened March 3.

A survey carried out by the Ministry of Health shows that during the 1990-97 period, per capita spending on medicines of the Chinese people rose from 36.6 yuan (US$4.4) to 131.3 yuan (US$15.8), he said. Medicine is one of a few commodities whose prices have continued to go up when the general price level has dropped or remained unchanged, he said.

The State Development Planning Commission issued a package of opinions on reform of management over medicine pricing last August. However, some problems such as blatantly inflating prices for profit on the part of hospitals and paying high kickbacks to hospital procurement personnel on the part of pharmaceutical enterprises continue to exist, he said.

Professor Fang said that some of the antibiotic drugs are sold at ten times their factory prices.

Though the morbidity rate in China has risen by 7.3 percent in recent years, the number of people seeking medical services has dropped by 18.8 percent compared with five years ago. "High medicine prices are a factor for people's reluctance to see doctors when they fall sick," he said.

He suggested that the central and local governments use administrative methods to intervene in the pricing of medicines and that public hearings be conducted before medicine prices are set.

Reform of the pharmaceutical system and harsh punishment on enterprises violating relevant regulations are also needed to solve the problem, he said.

(Xinhua 03/07/2001)