China expands medical insurance coverage to include 126 new drugs

Cai Wenjun
China has added 126 new drugs to the latest list of pharmaceuticals included in the government-run medical insurance system.
Cai Wenjun

The National Healthcare Security Administration announced the latest list of pharmaceuticals included in the government-run medical insurance system on Wednesday, with 126 new drugs added.

This year's medications include 21 cancer drugs, 15 chronic disease drugs, and 15 for rare diseases.

In the last six years, 744 medicines have been added to the drug list, which also excludes drugs with unknown effects.

More drugs for cancer and chronic diseases have been added to the list, while newly-marketed medicines and innovative drugs with high clinical value, new mechanisms, and new targets have been highlighted.

According to officials, favorable policies for innovative medications are being encouraged to alleviate patient burden, boost industrial development, and improve clinical results.

To stimulate the inclusion of novel pharmaceuticals in the medical insurance system, the government has established a framework that covers application, judgment, evaluation, and negotiation. A total of 25 unique medications were involved in the negotiation of this year's newly added drug list, with 23 receiving approval.

The list includes Boehringer Ingelheim's Nintedanib (Chinese brand name Weijiate), the world's first and only innovative medicine for progressive pulmonary fibrosis (PPF) treatment.

Dr Dai Huaping of the China-Japan Friendship Hospital stated that PPF is not a disease but a serious condition that worsens interstitial lung disease, a vast group of chronic diseases that scar the lungs.

"This state can cause respiratory failure, life quality issues, and death. There was no medical insurance-covered pulmonary fibrosis medication," Dai said.

"The addition of a unique medicine this time is positive for doctors and patients, who can better access the medicine to halt disease progression and improve life quality."

Wang Yiou, founder of the Illness Challenge Foundation, was pleased that PPF medicine was included in medical insurance. The foundation will work with professional facilities to educate patients and advance medical science to improve drug supply and disease management.

The drug list includes a Chinese-developed diabetes treatment, Dorzagliatin (Huatangning). This oral medication enhances glycaemic management and pancreatic β-cell function in type 2 diabetes by activating dual-acting glucokinase.

It was jointly developed by Shanghai-based Hua Medicine and Bayer.

China has about 141 million diabetics; however, only 40 percent have controlled their glucose. Dr Zhu Dalong of Nanjing Drum Tower Hospital said type 2 diabetes affects several organs and tissues in the body.

"As a glucose sensor, GK regulates blood glucose, making it a good target for diabetic drugs," he said.

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