A thorough reflection on the past drug price control policies is
needed, says a signed article in Guangzhou Daily. An
The National Development and Reform Commission issued a circular
recently to adjust the retail prices of 354 drugs. About 70 percent
of them will drop from their highest retailing prices by an average
of 20 percent.
This is the 20th price cut in China since 1996. But the previous
cuts did not receive much public reaction. Some officials have
voiced disappointment over the lack of reaction. Will the
adjustments this time satisfy both the government and the
High drug prices have become a thorny issue in the country's
medical reform. Though the government has taken some administrative
measures to curb price increases, the result is not obvious. This
is the background for the 20th adjustment.
Unless we first look at the previous 19 adjustments, the new
adjustments will continue to produce unsatisfactory results.
The past adjustments failed for the following reasons:
pharmaceutical companies changed the ingredients, packaging and
names of the government set-price drugs to avoid price cuts; the
government set-price drugs gradually disappeared from
prescriptions; fewer low-priced drugs are used by hospitals.
These factors have led to the current problem with drug price
High drug prices are a natural result of current institutional
conditions as different groups of pharmaceutical companies,
hospitals, medical insurance companies, drug sale companies and
supervisory departments are fighting for their own interests. Game
theory holds that only when all parties have equal opportunities
and abilities in bargaining will there be an institutional balance.
Without the participation of the public, the government's price
control policy will not be effective.
(China Daily March 1, 2007)