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Nation Takes New Steps to Curb Excessive Drug Prices
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A fresh probe into the excessive prices of pharmaceutical drugs has been launched.


A week-long investigation on the production costs of 28 kinds of drugs, including 21 Western ones and seven traditional Chinese medicines, took place before the May Day holiday.


The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) ordered the companies that produced them to fill out a detailed questionnaire on the production process in a bid to calculate the true costs involved.


Officers then decided whether the pharmaceutical factories needed to be visited in person as well.


The results of the investigation are still unknown.


The probe aims to help the commission gain a better understanding of the cost of drug production, and to provide sound support for it to limit the sale price of drugs in the future, an unidentified official was quoted by Beijing Times as saying.


In recent years, many patients have been wary of seeking medical treatment because of the soaring prices of various drugs.


The commission will use the results of its probe to launch the 18th national campaign to reduce the sale price of drugs in the country, which will cover 130 kinds of Western drugs and at least 30 traditional Chinese medicines, sources said.


Unlike previous campaigns, anti-virus and anti-cancer drugs will be included. It will be the first time some producers of traditional Chinese medicines will be asked to cut their prices.


The prices of more than 1,500 types of medicines and drugs have been reduced by around 20-40 per cent in previous campaigns.  


However, many people feel medical services and treatments are still too expensive.


It has been easy for Chinese factories in previous years to simply re-brand drugs that are ordered to become cheaper, so that they can continue to be sold at a high price but under a different name.


Commercial bribery also widely exists between distributing agents of pharmaceutical companies and hospitals, which sell the majority of drugs in the country.


Many doctors are given bribes to sell expensive drugs in favor of cheaper ones to patients when they write prescriptions.


Experts have also called on authorities to regulate the marketing process of drugs, during which the sale price of a drug to patients is usually 10 times more than that of its production cost.


Last month, the State Food and Drug Administration opened a centre to improve the practice of registering new drugs, making it impossible for factories to stop the production of a drug and merely register a new name for it.


The Ministry of Health has also told all hospitals to strengthen their management of doctors to prevent commercial bribery between doctors and drug distribution agents.


(China Daily May 9, 2006)

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