China will waive import tariffs on all imported common drugs, including anti-cancer drugs from May 1.
An official statement released Monday listed 28 imported drugs to be exempted. They include those essential to the treatment of breast cancer and leukemia. Currently a 3-to-6 percent of tariff is levied on these drugs.
The announcement followed a statement released after an executive meeting of the State Council on April 12 that import tariffs on all common drugs including cancer drugs, cancer alkaloid-based drugs, and imported traditional Chinese medicine will be exempt from May 1.
“The government is working to set forth long term measures that will encourage research and development of new drugs and to ensure the supply of much-needed cancer drugs for patients,” said Zeng Yixin, vice-minister of the National Health Commission.
Except for the tariff exemption, the government will also carry out centralized price negotiating and procurement of anti-cancer drugs that have been incorporated into the catalog of medical insurance reimbursement, and to include more anti-cancer drugs into the catalog, according to Zeng.
It is estimated that this exemption as well as several other favorable policies, will reduce the price of imported cancer drugs by up to 20 percent.
“Since 2016, among the drugs covered by health insurance, 39 have seen an average price decline of 44%. 17 of those are anti-cancer drugs,” said Yu Jingjin, Director of Disease Control at the National Health and Family Planning Commission.
“Prices for breast cancer drugs fell as much as 70 percent, which dropped from the previous 24,500 yuan to 7,600 yuan now. As of April, lower prices of the 17 anti-cancer drugs covered by health insurance have saved patients as much as 4.1 billion yuan,” Yu said.
“Conquering cancer is a worldwide problem, and R&D investment is huge. As a consequence, prices of exclusive anti-cancer drugs have been high and this has put a heavy burden on patients,” said Zeng at a press conference Saturday morning.
He said that all relative government agencies have worked together to reduce the burden of drug costs on cancer patients with specific measures.
A total of 6 billion yuan has been cut from cancer patients’ bills in the past two years, according to the National Health Commission.
(CGTN’s Ren Xueqian contributed to the story.)