Under popular pressure to boost the affordability of cancer medications, China’s health insurance regulator announced in August that it will add a range of cancer drugs to the list of those already covered by the national medical insurance system. At the same time, authorities are continuing to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies to persuade them to lower prices on these medications, which treat blood cancers and solid tumors, including colorectal cancer, renal cell carcinoma, lymphoma, and chronic myelogenous leukemia.
The moves follow an outcry in China spurred by the release of a movie earlier this year based on the true story of a Chinese businessman with leukemia, who illegally imported affordable cancer drugs from India to distribute to patients. These measures could lower revenues for multinational drug manufacturers, including Eli Lilly, Roche and Novartis.
Cancer rates in China have been growing rapidly, driven by an aging population, heavy cigarette smoking among men, and widespread exposure to heavy air pollution. Last year, according to China’s National Cancer Center, new cancer cases climbed to 4.29 million, and cancer deaths to 2.81 million.