November 20, 2019 / 2:03 PM / 19 days ago

China plans to add more drugs to price-slashing bulk-buy program

BEIJING (Reuters) - China will add more drugs to its bulk-buy program in an effort to curb high medicine prices, the country’s cabinet said, in a move that could increase downwards price pressure on multinational pharmaceuticals’ off-patent established products.

Medicines where generic versions are significantly cheaper than branded drugs will be prioritized for inclusion in a centralized procurement program, a State Council meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang said on Wednesday.

Drugs on the list so far include off-patent cancer treatment drug Pemetrexed, sold by Eli Lilly under the brand name Alimta, and leukemia therapy Imatinib, which is sold by Novartis as Gleevec. Local companies produce generic versions of both drugs.

Beijing introduced the bulk-buy program last year, allowing some cities to band together to negotiate lower prices for medicines for use at public hospitals.

The move caused the price of some medicines to plunge more than 90%, state news agency Xinhua said.

In September, the government expanded the program to cover the entire country.

Reporting by Roxanne Liu and Brenda Goh; Editing by Kirsten Donovan

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