London : Chinese health authorities announced price cuts of up to two-thirds for three expensive drugs on Friday in the latest move to reduce the cost of healthcare for patients in the world’s second-biggest economy.
The National Health and Family Planning Commission said the cost of GlaxoSmithKline’s hepatitis B drug Viread would fall to 490 yuan ($75) a month from 1,500, while AstraZeneca’s lung cancer pill Iressa falls to 7,000 from 15,000.
Icotinib, another lung cancer drug made by China’s Betta Pharmaceuticals, will come down to 5,500 from 12,000 yuan a month.
The Commission had signalled its intent in March to cut prices of some medicines used to treat serious diseases, including cancer, but had not named the drugs involved.
Britain’s GSK, which has struggled to rebuild sales in China following a damaging bribery scandal that landed it with a record fine in 2014, said it expected the lower price to stimulate increased volume sales.
At the reduced price, its hepatitis drug will now be covered by Chinese reimbursement policies, which means patients will no longer have to pay the entire price out of pocket.
The high cost of healthcare is a major point of contention in China, where low levels of state health insurance coverage means patients and their families often burn through savings to buy drugs to treat chronic disease.
China’s drive to lower the price of drugs is a challenge for drug firms in the world’s second-largest medicine market, where growth has slowed markedly over the past couple of years. Beijing is also supporting domestic firms to take a bigger share of the market.
($1 = 6.5440 Chinese yuan renminbi) (Reporting by Adam Jourdan and Ben Hirschler; Editing by Jon Boyle)