China Adds Record Number of Rare Disease Drugs to Medical Insurance List
Lin Zhiyin | Guo Jinhui
DATE:  Dec 13 2023
/ SOURCE:  Yicai
China Adds Record Number of Rare Disease Drugs to Medical Insurance List China Adds Record Number of Rare Disease Drugs to Medical Insurance List

(Yicai) Dec. 13 -- China has added 126 drugs to the catalog of medicines fully or partially covered by its health insurance scheme, including a record 15 treatments for rare diseases.

The National Healthcare Security Administration released the latest list today following three weeks of negotiations between the Chinese government and major drugmakers.

Each year the NHSA trashes out the prices of drugs entering the medical insurance catalog with pharmaceutical companies. Since these treatments will be covered by the national insurance system, drugmakers often agree to big price cuts to gain a larger market share.

The prices of the newly added drugs are 62 percent lower on average, the NHSA said at a press conference, which along with reimbursed costs should save patients more than CNY40 billion (USD5.6 billion) over the next two years.

The drugs include 21 for cancer, 17 for infections such as Covid-19, and 15 for chronic diseases like diabetes, psychotic disorders, and rheumatism, NHSA official Huang Xinyu told reporters.

Following the latest inclusions, the drugs catalog will have nearly 3,090 items, of which 45 percent are Chinese patent medicines, Huang added.

China has at least 20 million people living with rare diseases but access to treatment is difficult as they tend to be very expensive due to high development costs and a relatively low incidence rate.

Thanks to the additions, more patients with rare conditions such as Gaucher disease, which causes lipids to build up in the spleen or liver, or myasthenia gravis, a chronic neuromuscular disease that causes muscle weakness, will be able to get treatment from next year.

Two myasthenia gravis drugs have joined the list, one each from Zai Lab and AstraZeneca, Yicai learned from the companies. Zai Lab has not disclosed the negotiated price, but right now its treatment costs about CNY300,000 (USD41,750) a year.

Historically, the prices of rare disease drugs added to the catalog have seen reductions in excess of 50 percent.

The new additions lean toward rare diseases again, showing that the government takes such illnesses seriously, executives at specialist drugmakers told Yicai, adding that their firms look forward to helping more patients as soon as possible.

Editors: Tang Shihua, Emmi Laine

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Keywords:   National Drug Reimbursement List,National Healthcare Security Administration,medicine,drug procurement,2023,China,rare diseases