Spending on cancer drugs is dominating health spending in China, with hospitals in 2018 purchasing more cancer and immunomodulatory drugs than anti-infective drugs for the first time ever. According to data from the China Pharmaceutical Association (CPA), anti-tumor and immunomodulatory treatments represented more than 17 percent of Basic Medical Insurance (BMI) spending in 2018, five percent more than in 2017. More than 95% of Chinese citizens have Basic Medical Insurance (BMI).
The increase in spending comes two years after more than a dozen cancer drugs were added to China’s National Reimbursement Drug List, which designates medicines covered by BMI and other state-sponsored insurance programs. A key part of the central government’s broader strategy for expanding both the scale and quality of drugs offered to citizens, the NRDL offers to pharmaceutical manufacturers the guarantee that products included on the list will be prescribed and purchased in exchange for deep reimbursement cuts. More cancer-fighting drugs are in the pipeline for the NRDL approval.