Medical workers check drug stocks at a community health center in Beijing's Shijingshan district on Wednesday. The center is working in shifts for Spring Festival so that residents can get drugs on time. (ZHU XINGXIN / CHINA DAILY)
China will add 111 drugs to its national medical reimbursement list this year, with a focus on including treatments for infections, COVID-19 drugs and advanced medications for children's diseases and tumors, the National Healthcare Security Administration said on Wednesday.
Among them, 108 drugs were added following successful negotiations with manufacturers, with average prices slashed by 60.1 percent, Huang Xinyu, an official with the administration, said during a news conference.
Meanwhile, three drugs whose licenses have been revoked will be removed from the list, putting the total number of drugs on the list at 2,967.
"With the price cut and medical reimbursement, the updated list set to take effect on March 1 will save patients an estimated 90 billion yuan ($13.5 billion) over the next two years," he said.
The administration has updated the list annually since 2018, during which time 361 novel and high-quality drugs have been added, gradually filling the gaps in affordable access to drugs for tumors, chronic diseases, rare illnesses and children.
"Preliminary data shows that the regular updates have saved patients about 460 billion yuan," the administration said.
According to Huang, the latest update includes 23 cancer drugs, 17 treatments for infections, seven for rare diseases and two for COVID-19.
The two COVID-19 drugs are Azvudine, a homegrown oral pill, and Qingfei Paidu granules, a traditional Chinese medicine.
Genuine Biotech, the company that developed Azvudine, said on Wednesday that the price for a 3-milligram oral pill has been cut to 11.58 yuan so as to be included in the update.
"With the persistence of the COVID-19 epidemic, we will continue to implement medical insurance policies for COVID-19 patients," Huang said.
"We have noted that a couple of COVID-19 drugs are being evaluated for market approval and will likely get authorization soon, meaning a wider variety of treatments will be available and market competition will become more intense," he said, adding that the room for adjusting medical insurance policies will also expand.
Huang said that the administration will keep a close watch on the development of COVID-19 drugs and ensure they are priced reasonably.
Currently, all COVID-19 therapies, including antiviral drugs, are covered by the national medical insurance program under temporary measures that will expire on March 31.