Negotiations by healthcare body spur significant reductions
Li Lanzhi, a lung cancer patient in Beijing, used to spend nearly 50,000 yuan ($7,255) a month on a new drug called alectinib to control the disease.
The drug, developed by Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche and sold under the name Alecensa, has proved effective in easing breathing during sleep for patients with Li's type of cancer.
However, because of the high cost, she feared she would be unable to afford it much longer, as the balance of her pension savings account was falling rapidly.
"I would have given up but for my son. He comforted me by saying that at least I had a drug to use," she said.
Li's fears may soon end. On Jan 1, the drug was included in the country's basic healthcare insurance program for reimbursement. That followed a significant drop in its price through negotiations led by the National Healthcare Security Administration last year.
As a result, starting as early as this month, medical expenses for patients like Li could drop by 80 percent or more.
In addition to patients with lung cancer, many others with serious diseases can expect to see their spending on drugs drop considerably this year because of price negotiations.
Last year, 70 new drugs were placed on the list for reimbursement after months of talks between the authorities and pharmaceutical companies, both domestic and international.
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