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July: AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Novartis and more lose out in China's latest round of drug price cuts

In another abysmal day for large pharma companies’ off-patent drugs, generics makers have once again offered hefty discounts to win large tender offers in China, elbowing out original developers.
In China’s latest volume-based procurement, more than 200 companies making 60 off-patent drugs slashed their prices by an average 48% to win supply contracts with public hospitals, state-run People’s Daily reports.

In the end, only four originators got in with an average discount of 67%, People Daily reports. They are Pfizer’s antibiotic Tygacil, Astellas’ antifungal Mycamine, Almirall’s antibiotic Kestine and Italian firm Bracco Imaging’s imaging agent Isovue.
Among a long list of originators that are walking away empty handed include, Eisai’s liver cancer drug Lenvima, AstraZeneca’s beta blocker Seloken/Toprol XL, Pfizer’s kidney cancer drug Sutent, Boehringer Ingelheim’s second-generation EGFR lung cancer med Giotrif, Roche’s first-generation EGFR inhibitor Tarceva and flu drug Tamiflu, Gilead Sciences’ antiviral Vemlidy (TAF), Novartis’ antiemetic Zofran and hormone therapy Sandostatin.
Lenvima generics won tenders by lowering the drug’s average per-pill price from 108 Chinese yuan ($16.1) to 18 Chinese yuan ($2.7), according to People’s Daily.
The fiercest competition came for AstraZeneca’s old proton-pump inhibitor omeprazole, with 27 companies participated in the bidding.
The latest VBP marks its seventh round, including one last year dedicated to insulins. Average discounts in the past have also been hovering at around 50%, with the steepest by any single drug logging more than 98%. (Source: Fierce Pharma)

May: China's pharmaceutical industry posts revenue, profit growth in 2021

China's pharmaceutical firms saw their combined business revenue climb 18.7% year on year in 2021, the highest growth rate in five years, official data showed Tuesday.
Companies in this sector together raked in 3.37 trillion yuan (about 502 billion U.S. dollars) in revenue last year, Zhou Jian, an official with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, told a press conference.
Their total profits stood at 708.75 billion yuan in 2021, up 67.3% from a year ago, Zhou said.
The industry's value-added output rose 23.1% year on year, 13.5% points higher than the overall growth rate, bringing its share in China's total industrial output to 4.1%.
Research and development also yielded solid results last year, Zhou noted, adding that the number of new drugs and medical equipment approved to enter the market was the highest in five years. (Source: Xinhua)

January: Chinese diabetics to enjoy favorable drug prices from May

Starting from May, diabetes patients in China will enjoy an average 48% drop in their medicine costs. The price cut will be effective on about 40 commonly used insulin products selected by the country's centralized drug procurement program in November.
The bulk-buying mechanism has so far benefited patients with hypertension, diabetes, hyperlipidemia, chronic hepatitis B, and other chronic or common diseases, with an average drug price cut of 53%. It had saved an estimated 260 billion yuan (about 40.84 billion U.S. dollars) in medicine costs by the end of last year, and encouraged pharmaceutical enterprises to focus more on research and development, according to official data.
"Group-buying" will be institutionalized in the next few years and become the main purchasing channel for drugs and medical consumables, said the National Healthcare Security Administration. More high-value medical consumables will also be included in the program, it added. (Source: Xinhua)

January: Nation plans to launch free HPV vaccinations

China will gradually launch free human papillomavirus vaccinations nationwide to protect women and girls from cervical cancer, starting in pilot regions, the National Health Commission said.
Several provinces have rolled out efforts to promote free HPV vaccinations. Guangdong plans to gradually inoculate girls under 14 after they get into junior middle schools in September this year. A budget of 600 million yuan ($94.3 million) has been allocated for free vaccinations from 2022 to 2024. Cities such as Lianyungang in Jiangsu province and Jinan in Shandong province have already begun offering free HPV vaccines to school-age girls, the commission said.
It added that China backs the global strategy of accelerating the elimination of cervical cancer, which was initiated by the World Health Organization in November 2020. The strategy stipulated getting 90 percent of girls vaccinated with HPV vaccine before they turn 15 by 2030, and set the target of eliminating cervical cancer through vaccination, screening and treatment. "The primary target of HPV vaccination in China is girls from 13 to 15," the commission said.

With HPV vaccines, cervical cancer is expected to become the first malignant tumor to be completely eliminated. About 110,000 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed in China each year. Both the incidence and mortality rates have been increasing in the past 20 years and the cases have been diagnosed at a younger age. However, the HPV vaccination rate of school-age girls in China is less than 1%, China Central Television reported. Health experts suggested that women should get vaccinated as early as possible, and there is no need to wait for the nine-valent HPV vaccine, which may be temporarily out of stock.
China has approved four types of HPV vaccines for use, including two two-valent HPV vaccines, a four-valent one and a nine-valent kind, each signifying the number of virus strains it can protect against. Although higher-valent vaccines can protect against a wider range of viruses, "the two most common virus strains-Type 16 and Type 18-cause 84.5% of cervical cancer", said Qiao Youlin, a professor of epidemiology at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences' Cancer Hospital. "So you can be mainly protected by taking two-valent HPV vaccines," Qiao told CCTV. "The earlier and younger you get inoculated, the better it will be." (Source: China daily)

January: China to promote centralized drug bulk-buying to ease patient burden

China will carry out centralized bulk-buying of drugs and high-value medical consumables on a regular and institutionalized basis, to further lower medical costs for patients, according to a decision made at the State Council's Executive Meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang on Monday. "The outcomes of the centralized bulk-buying program over the past few years should be fully recognized, as it has not only delivered real benefits to patients, but also motivated enterprises to step up product research and development and enhance quality," Li said.
The meeting noted the steady progress in the reform of centralized bulk-buying of drugs and high-value consumables in recent years, effectively curbing drug over-pricing through market-based mechanisms. By the end of last year, the program had helped save 260 billion yuan in medical insurance costs and patients' expenditures. Going forward, centralized bulk-buying need to be put on a regular and institutionalized footing to bring down the prices of medical services and drugs. "More drugs for chronic diseases and common illnesses as well as more high-value medical consumables should be incorporated into the bulk-buying program, as this is what people care much about," Li said.

The meeting decided to advance the national bulk-buying program, with focus on drugs for chronic diseases and common illnesses. Sub-national authorities will undertake provincial procurement or inter-provincial joint procurement of drugs that are not covered by the national-level bulk-buying. By the end of this year, the total number of drugs that each provincial region bulk-purchases at both national and provincial levels shall be no less than 350.
The coverage of bulk-buying regarding high-value medical consumables will be expanded in a well-paced manner, and the bulk-buying of orthopedic consumables and dental implants which are of high public concern will be rolled out at national and provincial levels respectively. "Quality is of utmost importance for drugs and medical consumables. We must make sure it is not compromised under any circumstance and work even harder to protect people's health," Li said.

The meeting stressed the need for long-term, stable supply of selected drugs and consumables. Medical institutions should use the selected products on a priority basis as appropriate. Oversight will be stepped up to ensure that price cuts will not come at the cost of the quality of selected products. "We must fully implement the policy for the use of medical insurance funds saved in the procurement, and advance the reform of the remuneration system to raise the salary of medical workers as appropriate and keep them better motivated." Li said. "COVID response and economic and social development should be advanced in parallel. People's normal access to medical services must be guaranteed during the pandemic." (Source: Xinhua)


December: Over 60 rare-disease drugs approved for Chinese market

More than 60 rare-disease drugs have been approved for marketing in China, of which over 40 are included in the national medical insurance system, according to official data. China's national reimbursement list now covers medications for 25 rare diseases, according to figures released at a national conference on rare diseases held in Beijing on Saturday.
Seven rare-disease drugs have been added to the list in 2021, bringing their price down by about 65% on average, Li Tao, an official with the National Healthcare Security Administration (NHSA), said at the conference. Official data shows that there are about 20 million rare-disease patients in China, with more than 200,000 new patients added every year.
According to Chen Shifei, deputy head of the National Medical Products Administration, drugs for rare disease prevention and treatment have been given priority in China's review and approval process for new medications. A total of 507 new medications have been added to the national medical insurance catalog since the inauguration of the NHSA in 2018, bringing the total to 2,860. (Source: Xinhua)

December: China poised to eliminate hepatitis C by 2030

China has all the right conditions to eliminate viral hepatitis by 2030, a goal proposed by the World Health Organization, from the perspectives of prevention and medical treatment, said experts.
"Current therapies can achieve a near 100% cure rate for hepatitis C regardless of whether it is in a major city or in the countryside," said Nan Yuemin, director of the department of integrative hepatology at the Third Hospital of Hebei Medical University.
According to the Chinese Foundation for Hepatitis Prevention and Control, there are about 86 million people infected with the hepatitis B virus and approximately 10 million individuals infected with the hepatitis C virus in the country. China has the highest number of cases and deaths related to liver cancer caused by viral hepatitis.

Several innovative therapies for the treatment of hepatitis C have been included in the National Reimbursement Drug List updated in early December. They included three innovative hepatitis C treatments by Gilead Sciences - Vosevi, Epclusa, and Harvoni.
The inclusion of such drugs into the NRDL has allowed hepatitis C patients to gain access to innovative treatment solutions at more affordable prices and have new hopes of a cure, said experts.
Nan said the previous combination treatment process, which usually lasts at least one year, has created much financial and physical burdens on patients. The introduction of innovative therapies, such as those that involve taking only one pill a day, has allowed more patients to receive therapy and be cured.
"The improved accessibility and affordability of innovative drugs will benefit many patients, especially those with refractory, chronic hepatitis C virus infection, and has allowed the country to get closer to the goal of eliminating this disease," she said. (Source: China Daily)

December: China adds 74 new drugs to medical insurance coverage list

A total of 74 new medications have been added to China's national medical insurance catalog, with prices of 67 medicine types slashed by an average of 61.71%, the National Healthcare Security Administration (NHSA) said on Dec 3.
Seven drugs for rare diseases, as well as medicines for tumors, chronic diseases, anti-infection treatment and those specifically for women or children, are among the additions to the reimbursement list. Eleven medications with low clinical value and low demand have been removed from the list, the NHSA noted.
A total of 507 medications have been added to the list since the inauguration of the NHSA in 2018, bringing the list to 2,860 items. (Source: Xinhua)

November: Centralized drug procurement program cuts medical costs for people with diabetes

China's latest centralized drug procurement work has preliminarily selected 42 insulin products, resulting in an average price cut of 48%, according to the National Healthcare Security Administration. The products, from 11 domestic and foreign-invested companies, cover 16 varieties of second and third-generation insulin commonly used in clinical treatment.
The first batch of approximately 210 million doses of insulin ordered by medical institutions across the country will be purchased under the program, saving an estimated 9 billion yuan (about $1.4 billion) in costs. It is the first time the national centralized drug procurement program has included biopharmaceuticals, marking a milestone in the reform of the program, the administration said. The centralized procurement of insulin will bring tangible benefits to diabetes patients by lowering medicine prices, as they require the long-term use of insulin to control their blood sugar, it added. (Source: Xinhua)

September: China's biotech sector comes of age with big licensing deals

China's government has made cancer treatments a top priority for the industry, and supportive policies for the sector over the past five years are now bearing fruit and Western firms have come knocking at Chinese biotech doors.
The most recent being a major licensing deal RemeGen Co., Ltd. struck last month with Seattle-based Seagen Inc. The agreement to co-develop cancer treatments using a RemeGen antibody drug conjugate is regarded as one of the biggest of its kind between a Chinese biotech and a Western firm. It provides for up to $2.4 billion in milestone payments, in addition to $200 million upfront as well as royalties if approved.

For Seagen, the RemeGen deal will allow it to directly challenge breast cancer treatments from Roche and AstraZeneca/Daiichi Sankyo. The antibody also shows promise in tackling bladder and stomach tumors.
Other notable deals include a Novartis agreement worth up to $2.2 billion for a BeiGene Ltd. drug. The two are co-developing an antibody similar to Keytruda and Opdivo which help the immune system attack several different types of cancer and which have reaped billions of dollars in sales.
AbbVie has also partnered with I-Mab to co-develop a monoclonal antibody for several types of cancer in a deal worth up to $1.9 billion.

According to Morningstar analyst Jay Lee, an industry expert, the number of large out-licensing pacts for Chinese biotechs is expected to grow, with I-Mab, Innovent Biologics, Junshi Biosciences and Legend Biotech the likely candidates for further licensing deals with Western firms, citing their existing partnerships and pipeline assets. (Source: Reuters)

September: Centralized purchase to cut artificial joint prices by 82%

The prices of artificial joints will be slashed by 82% on average due to a centralized procurement program conducted by China's National Healthcare Security Administration. According to the preliminary bidding results announced by the administration on Tuesday in Tianjin, the prices of hip joints will be cut to 7,000 yuan (about $1,086) from 35,000 yuan, while knee joints will plummet to 5,000 yuan from 32,000 yuan.

Joint replacement is an effective way to treat various joint diseases caused by injuries and degradation. Artificial hip and knee joints make up more than 10% of China's high-value medical-supply market.

For the first year, the centralized procurement program will be used to purchase 540,000 sets of artificial joints, accounting for 90% of the total demand from medical institutions nationwide.

The administration said 44 companies have been chosen from 48 candidates, and patients can expect to use the joint products under the program by March or April 2022. The program has been instituted following the successful trial of the centralized buying of coronary stents, and with full consideration of the whole set of products and accompanying services that joint replacement surgeries require, said the administration. (Source: Xinhua)

August: China's internet health services gathering steam amid COVID-19

A remarkable rise has been seen in the use of internet-based health services since China's State Council or the Cabinet released a guideline on promoting "internet plus health services" in 2018. Number of internet hospitals in China soared from just over 100 in December 2018 to more than 1,600 in June this year, official figures showed, indicating online health services were already a key part of the country's health service system.

The number of people who availed of internet-based health services from the 44 hospitals directly under the management of China's National Health Commission (NHC) in 2020 was 18 times that in 2019, said Ye Quanfu, head of the commission's National Institute of Hospital Administration. Online health consultation sought via third-party platforms multiplied more than 20 times from 2019, Ye added, citing research data.

The internet hospital of Peking Union Medical College Hospital (PUMCH), one of China's most reputed, is the first of its kind in Beijing to be accredited by authorities. People can now seek online health services from more than 1,200 doctors in 38 departments of the PUMCH. Around 70,000 patients have availed of the services this way.

An immediate benefit of internet technologies, including through web hospitals, is that information helps cut the legwork that patients used to do. Online reservation, online payment, and intelligent triage systems are also increasingly used to improve services at hospitals, according to health authorities.

Experts noted that despite rapid development, internet-empowered medical services in China were still in a primary stage of development. The government departments will explore innovative approaches to regulating the emerging business and creating an enabling environment for its stable and sustainable development, said Liu Wenxian, an official with the NHC. (Source: Xinhua)

July: China makes progress in curbing hepatitis infection

More than 2,280 hepatitis B patients had been clinically cured as of June thanks to a project on chronic hepatitis B treatment launched in China. A total of 13,679 patients were treated under this project by the end of June since it was launched in 2018 by the Chinese Foundation for Hepatitis Prevention and Control (CFHPC). "China has a large number of hepatitis B patients but a relatively low diagnosis and treatment rate, leading to a heavy burden in treating liver cirrhosis and liver cancer caused by its infection," said Yang Xizhong, executive vice chairman of the CFHPC, on World Hepatitis Day, which falls on Wednesday.

It is estimated that about 86 million hepatitis B virus carriers live in China, of which about 28 million need treatment. In addition, there are approximately 4.5 million people with hepatitis C in China.

China has made remarkable progress in viral hepatitis prevention and control. Programs to immunize the public against hepatitis B -- especially vaccination for the newborn -- since the 1990s and effective measures to reduce mother-to-child transmission have curbed infections at its source. Through decades of efforts, China has cut the positive rate of hepatitis B virus surface antigen among people under five years old to 0.32%, achieving the World Health Organization (WHO) hepatitis B control target in the Western Pacific region ahead of schedule.

WHO regional office for the Western Pacific has hailed China's endeavor at combating hepatitis B, lauding the efforts as a great achievement in the field of public health and setting a good example for other developing countries. About two decades ago, China began to roll out free hepatitis B vaccination for all children. Today's children are a generation with almost no hepatitis B. This landmark progress signifies that China has greatly reduced the number of liver cancer and liver cirrhosis cases in future generations, noted Gauden Galea, WHO Representative in China.

Most regions in China have included the treatment of viral hepatitis in the healthcare and medical insurance system and several direct acting antiviral drugs for hepatitis C treatment have been approved for sale in China since 2017. (Source: Xinhua)

July: Hospitals to beef up TCM usage to boost integration with Western medicine

All tertiary general hospitals in China will be required to set up a traditional Chinese medicine department, and all secondary hospitals will be encouraged to build TCM departments, a health official said on July 23.

In the meantime, the country will increase the number of TCM practitioners and drugstores at general hospitals, Yan Huaguo, deputy director of the State Administration of Traditional Chinese medicine's medical administration bureau, said during a news briefing. The administration, along with two other government departments, recently released a guideline aimed at promoting joint development of Western medicine and TCM at general hospitals.

Yan said more efforts will be devoted to improving clinical services that meld these two treatment approaches. In addition, the administration will strive to formulate 100 diagnosis and treatment plans that exemplify the integration of Western medicine and TCM in the next five years. Serious diseases such as cancer will be its focus, he said. (Source: China Daily)

July: More than 50% of Chinese adults are overweight or obese

Chinese health experts have called for efforts to address the rising overweight and obesity prevalence rate in China among various age groups. The overweight and obesity rate among adults is more than 50%, while that among children aged six to 17 is 19% and children under six 10.4%, said Kong Lingzhi, a member of the Healthy China initiative promotion committee, at a press conference by the National Health Commission (NHC) on July 16.

Besides improved medical efforts, the whole society should act together to prevent and control overweight and obesity, said Kong. Kong added that targeted measures and a coordinated mechanism are required to tackle the issue.

Concerning childhood obesity, special attention should be paid to children under six, according to Zhao Wenhua, the chief nutritionist with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Zhao suggested parents should cultivate good eating habits in their children from an early age, engage them in sports activities, and control their intake of sugary drinks.

The NHC regularly monitors the nutrition and health status of residents, said Zhao. He added that China implemented a nutritional improvement program for rural students receiving compulsory education, focusing on preventing overweight and obesity. (Source: Xinhua)

July: Health awareness, understanding rises nationwide

Chinese health literacy levels increased to 23.2% last year, up 6.1 percentage points on 2018, an official with the National Health Commission said on July 16. This suggests that 23 out of every 100 people now have basic health-related knowledge and skills according to the commission.

Mao Qun'an, director of the commission's department of Planning and Information, also said that China has improved health interventions since it issued nationwide disease control and health promotion guidelines in June 2019. The guidelines proposed the creation of 15 special campaigns to improve the nation's overall health, ranging from disseminating health-related information and stepping up tobacco control, to improving dietary habits and mental health.

Mao said incidence rates for major chronic diseases, like cancer and cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, as well as key infectious diseases in hard-hit regions, have since been reined in. However, he said unhealthy behavior, including tobacco use and the lack of exercise, are still widespread, and more effort is needed to address these issues. (Source: China Daily)

July: Big declines seen in infectious diseases

China witnessed significant drops in new cases of nearly all major infectious diseases last year, with the number of new HIV/AIDS infections seeing its first year-on-year decline in a decade, according to an annual health development communique released by the National Health Commission on Monday.

The number of viral hepatitis cases dropped by 11.5% year-on-year, with tuberculosis cases down by about 13.6%, the communique said. The two diseases were the most prevalent among all 40 notifiable contagious illnesses. Reported cases of other diseases transmitted mainly through respiratory droplets, such as flu, measles, mumps, scarlet fever and hand-foot-mouth disease, also declined markedly. Experts said previously that COVID-19 disease control measures, such as keeping social distance, wearing masks and washing hands regularly, can also play a role in curbing the spread of many other viruses. As the pandemic has caused a sharp reduction in international travel, imported infections of dengue fever and malaria, whose domestic spread has been largely eliminated (dropped by over 96% and 57% respectively last year).

China reported about 62,170 HIV/AIDS infections last year, down by more than 9,000 from 2019. But HIV/AIDS remained the deadliest infectious disease, with more than 18,800 people dying of AIDS-related illnesses last year, the communique said. COVID-19, which was added to the list of notifiable infectious illnesses in January last year, led to 87,071 infections and 4,634 deaths in 2020, with the data including imported cases detected on the Chinese mainland. The communique said the COVID-19 pandemic also led to a reduction in the number of visits to medical institutions and hospitalizations last year, both falling by more than 10% compared with 2019. (Source: China Daily)

July: More than half of young Chinese students myopic

The prevalence of myopia or nearsightedness among Chinese preschoolers and young students was 52.7% in 2020, a health official said at a press conference on July 13. This is a rise of 2.5 percentage points from 2019 but still 0.9 percentage points lower than 2018, said Zenawdu Hasayn, an official with the disease control department of the National Health Commission (NHC), quoting a recent national survey. The rise in myopia rate may be attributed to reduced outdoor activities due to the COVID-19 epidemic last year, according to the official.

China conducted a nationwide survey from September to December 2020, covering more than 2.47 million students from 8,604 schools across the country. The prevalence of the condition among primary school students rose relatively faster, said Zenawdu Hasayn, who warned of myopia among young kids as a prominent problem.

However, progression into high myopia has slowed down. The prevalence of high myopia among junior middle school students and high school students logged a decrease of 0.5 percentage points in 2020 from that in 2018, the official said.
Shen Haiping, another NHC official, said the government attaches great importance to youngsters' eye health. The country has included eye care and vision tests for children aged six and below in national public health services, with a coverage rate of 91.8% in 2020. (Source: Xinhua)

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