Chinese Government Responds to Price Fluctuations of Medical Products Due to SARS Outbreak

In response to the recent price fluctuations of medical products in China due to the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) outbreak, the Chinese government released a circular in April 2003 announcing that measures will be taken to prevent price gouging on medical products.

China’s State Development and Reform Commission (SDRC), the government body responsible for price supervision and price changes for drugs, medical equipment, food and other resources related to public health, is requiring all local price authorities to be vigilant of any price fluctuations on these goods. The SDRC states that it will take any appropriate measures to stabilize prices. Legal sanctions may also be imposed to restore market order.

Medications treating cold or flu related symptoms have been flying off shelves in all parts of China. A concoction produced by Tongrentan, Beijing’s most well-known Chinese traditional medicine shop, called “Eight Ingredients Anti-SARS Dose” has sold over 30,000 bottles in one day. To prevent price increases due to excessive demand, the Beijing Drug Administration has imposed price ceilings on Chinese medicines of 9 to 12 RMB (US$1.00 to 1.40) depending on the type of remedy.

A spokesman for the Beijing Drug Administration added, “We are also censoring the content of advertisements of drugs and health products to filter out messages exaggerating their effectiveness against flu. We are going to sample these products to avoid any inferior quality caused by mass production.”

The SDRC is also encouraging consumers to report any irregular movements in prices of medical products by calling a nationwide hotline phone number.