China to Release List of Essential Medicines and National Reimbursement Drug List

As part of China’s overhaul of its healthcare system, the government
has recently released a list of approximately three hundred medicines that are
expected to be sold at government-controlled prices starting in September. The
list of essential medicines includes Western medicines such as amoxicillin,
streptomycin, aspirin and paracetamol as well as traditional Chinese drugs.
The list also includes medicines that treat anxiety and high blood pressure.
While the list reflects treatments for at least sixty percent of the current
most common illnesses in China, the ministry will update the list every three
years accordingly. This list will have many implications for the country’s pharmaceutical regulations.

The government will also release a new National Reimbursement Drug List (NRDL)
in November at the latest. The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security
(MOHRSS) appointed twenty thousand experts and ten key experts to choose the
drugs and decide on the final list. The key experts are composed of medical
reimbursement specialists and several heads of the pharmacy departments at tier-three
hospitals around China. The last national reimbursement drug list (NRDL) was
released in 2004. The final list will take the National Essential Drug List
into consideration as well.

This wave of drug reforms is part of China’s 850 billion RMB (about $124
million) healthcare reform plan to bring basic affordable health care to all
1.3 billion Chinese people. Approximately one third of the grassroots health
facilities run by the state will be stocked with the medicines on the essential
list by the end of the year, according to the ministry. The goal is to have
all state-owned facilities fully equipped with medicines from the list by 2020.
This change will likely make a great impact on the lives of those in rural areas.

The government-controlled pricing of the drugs will also help poorer Chinese
patients. In the past, doctors, public hospitals and other medical facilities
have prescribed expensive drugs and treatments because they relied on drug sale,
tests and treatments to cover expenses. However, this makes health care too
expensive for patients and often, many of the treatments are unnecessary.