BEIJING -- China has exempted import tariffs on all common drugs including cancer drugs, cancer alkaloid-based drugs, and imported traditional Chinese medicine on May 1.
Value-added tax on the production and import of drugs will also drop.
It is estimated that the policies will lower drug prices by at least 20 percent, said Shi Luwen, director of the international research center on medicine management at Peking University.
The measures will significantly enhance the availability of the drugs, reduce the burden on patients' families, and will help prevent poverty caused by illness, he said.
According to the national cancer institute, the market for antineoplastic drugs, used to fight tumors, in China exceeds 120 billion yuan ($ 19.1 billion).
The Chinese government has been trying to ease the financial burden of patients and their families in recent years.
Since 2016, the government has reached agreements with pharmaceutical companies on the prices of 39 drugs -- including 17 cancer medicines -- on the medical insurance list, said Yu Jingjin, an official with the National Health Commission, at a press conference in Beijing.
Prices of these drugs have been marked down by over 50 percent on average, said Yu.
Statistics from the national cancer institute show that 3.5 million new cancer patients are diagnosed in the country annually, with lung caner, breast cancer, and stomach cancer ranked as the top three most common cancers.