A list throwing drug prices produced by domestic factories and
by joint ventures into sharp relief has reignited the powder keg of
debate on drug prices.
Yifeng Drugstore, one of China's top 50 drug retailers in
Nanjing, east China's Jiangsu Province, compared 43 commonly-used
drugs and discovered that prices for drugs with identical
compositions vary widely according to brands.
The worst offender was Captopril with a pa ckage of 100*25mg
tablets made by Changzhou Pharmaceutical Factory sold for 3.4 yuan,
while a package of 100*12.5mg tablets made by Sino-American
Shanghai Squibb Pharmaceuticals Ltd. were being sold at a
staggering 148 yuan, 87 times higher. Most price gaps ranged around
the six to eight times higher range.
"We hope every customer visiting our store will see the truth.
The list was made for their convenience," said one of Yifeng
It took the staff three days to compile the list of 43 drugs,
including roxithromycin and acetaminophen, which account for 10.66
percent of daily sales.
Ironically, drugs made by joint ventures are still more popular
on the sales market, with their domestic suffering from a lack of
brand name staying power. An example is given by the 533 monthly
sales of Bayer China-made packages of nifedipine at 32.5 yuan
apiece, while its domestically-produced counterparts sell only 26
packages a month, despite being cheaper at 16.5 yuan.
"Most customers know little about medicine ingredients and their
effects and thus tend to trust so-called famous brands," said Zhou
Aimin, a manager at a Yifeng Drugstore, adding that many cheaper
domestically-made drugs are just as effective.
Yifeng called on retailers to set up a drugstore union which
would be an effective middle man between drug suppliers and
customers. Currently, drug prices are only set by local commissions
that host a bidding process. Hospitals also sell drugs at a 15
percent mark-up cost as permitted by regulations. The argument
supporting these moves is that if retail prices are lower than the
average regional prices, retailers may find their supply drying up
as producers take their business elsewhere.
Therefore, an industrial union is essential to allow retailers
to shake off their chains and provide customers with cheap drugs,
according to industry insiders.
(China.org.cn by Huang Shan, August 3, 2007)