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Update of drug list to give doctors more choices

By Ling Yuhuan (Global Times)

08:34, July 05, 2012

The updated list of essential drugs to be published this year is expected to add more medicines to those that are covered by the medical insurance plan, an official said Tuesday.

The price of essential drugs in county-level hospitals and drug stores has dropped by 30 percent as a result of various measures of the government, said Vice Health Minister Yin Li at a national meeting.

However, the number of drugs on the existing essential drugs list is still relatively small, and vicious competition has given rise to a shortage of some cheap medicines, which greatly affects the supply of drugs.

Essential drugs are good quality, reasonably priced and low risk, Wang Jishan, vice president of Peking University People's Hospital, told the Global Times.

The World Health Organization's essential drugs list contains 358 categories of drugs, whereas China's version, updated in 2009, has only 205 categories, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

"As a result of the amendment, patients can get partial or even full reimbursements for more essential drugs, and doctors will also have more choices when writing prescriptions," said Wang.

Doctors must ask for a patient's agreement before they sell them the drugs not on the list, as those drugs are usually more expensive, according to Wang.

"Now that the list is to be enlarged, the doctor can have more freedom to choose more effective drugs," he said.

Yin also suggests drugs prescribed by rural doctors, who are required to sell drugs at the list price, should be given a subsidy.

The national meeting has also decided to call for bids that will give producers exclusive rights to make some drugs that are not in high demand.

Most drugs producers are unwilling to produce low-demand drugs because of the low profit, said Wang.

"If the number of producers is limited, their profit will increase," he said. "By outlawing the small-scale, unqualified drug manufactures, the quality of drugs will also improve."

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