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Government moves to lower prices of cancer treatments

By Wang Xiaodong | China Daily | Updated: 2018-05-17 09:17
Young cancer patients undergo infusions at Beijing Children's Hospital. The number of children with cancer in China had reached 220,000 by 2014. [Ren Fangyan/For China Daily]

Imported drugs are no longer subject to tariffs and VAT has been slashed in efforts to make medication more affordable, as Wang Xiaodong reports.

The cost of imported cancer drugs is expected to fall dramatically as a result of recent government measures, according to the National Health Commission.

On May 1, import tariffs were lifted on 103 of the 138 antineoplastic drugs - which can prevent or slow the growth of tumors - available on the Chinese market, and the value added tax levied on them was also reduced significantly.

Authorities will also adopt measures to lower costs, such as price negotiations with manufacturers, greater use of centralized government procurement and the inclusion of a wider range of antineoplastic drugs in the national healthcare insurance program, Zeng Yixin, vice-minister in charge of the commission, told a media briefing last month.

The moves are aimed at reducing the heavy financial burden that inadequate medical insurance cover can impose on some cancer patients, especially as the disease is a major cause of poverty in rural areas, the commission said.

A report published last month by the Cancer Hospital at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences showed that more than 3.8 million new cases are reported in China every year.

"Cancer has become the leading threat to people's lives and health because of a number of causes - including the aging population, industrialization and unhealthy lifestyles - and the incidence of the disease is rising," Zeng said.

"Although new, effective antineoplastic drugs are available, some patented drugs are extremely expensive, and that places a heavy financial burden on patients."

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