In March 2018, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang announced that China will reduce tariffs on imported cancer drugs to zero percent. The plan should give a boost to global drug makers such as AstraZeneca, Novartis, Pfizer, and Roche by making their treatments more accessible in China, which has the world’s largest population of cancer patients. Li did not give an exact timeframe for the tariffs to reach zero, but some “most favored nation” countries have already seen tariffs on various drugs drop to 2 percent from 4-6 percent after an adjustment in December 2017.
Cancer drugs are expensive in China, and local firms have not been able to effectively produce the kind of advanced, targeted therapies offered by global drug makers. An estimated 2 million people die of cancer in China each year, and more than 4.2 million were diagnosed in 2015 alone. Many Chinese patients have sought to illegally obtain cheap cancer drugs from India.