China Medical News

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April: China to adjust basic health insurance drug catalog every year

The drug catalog covered by basic healthcare insurance in China will be adjusted once a year in principle under a dynamic mechanism, according to a draft released on April 29 by the National Healthcare Security Administration to solicit public opinions. Such a dynamic mechanism will be established and improved to adjust the drug catalog once a year in principle, in line with the draft version of the interim regulation on medicines covered by basic healthcare insurance, according to the administration.

Chemical drugs, biological products or ready-for-use traditional Chinese medicine included in the catalog should be those already approved by medicine authorities, the draft said. Drugs made from endangered animals and plants, those whose approval has been revoked, or those that failed in the risk evaluation should be removed from the coverage. For most medicines, the expense covered by basic healthcare insurance should be set upon its inclusion into the list, the draft noted. (Source: Xinhua)

April: Experts call on adults to take vaccines against preventable diseases

Chinese medical experts called on adults, particularly women as well as middle-aged and senior people, to get themselves immunized against vaccine-preventable diseases. "Looking back on history, vaccines have been playing an indispensable role in fighting diseases," said Zeng Guang, chief epidemiologist of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. There are corresponding immunization plans for people of every age group, Zeng noted, calling for enhanced public awareness of adult immunization.

A survey on public awareness of immunization jointly released on April 25 by Chinese tech giant Tencent and multinational pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline showed that merely 22% of Chinese people polled knew that women need to take vaccines. "The figure reminds us the general public's lack of immunization knowledge," said Sui Long, a gynecologist with the Obstetrics and Gynecology Hospital of Fudan University in Shanghai. "Apart from infectious diseases, vaccines play an important role in preventing cancers," Sui said. For example, human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines are effective in preventing HPV-caused cervical cancers, Sui added.

Jiang Wencheng, a physician with Shanghai Dermatology Hospital, said middle-aged and senior people are at higher risk of shingles. With limited therapies available, vaccination is the most effective way to contain the viral disease, Jiang said. Xu Jie, a physician for infectious diseases, suggested that high-risk grown-ups for hepatitis B should also be included in a regular immunization program. (Source: Xinhua)

March: China approves new anticancer drug for clinical tests

A new anticancer drug capable of "lysing" cancer cells has been granted approval to enter clinical trials in China, the drug's developers said Wednesday. The drug, jointly developed by Xiamen University and two Chinese companies, is the latest attempt to use oncolytic virotherapy to treat a number of solid cancers, including head-neck carcinoma, lung cancer, colorectal cancer and liver cancer.

Oncolytic virotherapy is an immunotherapy that "lyses," or destroys, cancer cells and releases tumor-associated antigens that will stimulate the patient's immune response. Researchers with Xiamen University said they constructed a new-generation oncolytic virus, encoding PD-1 antibodies, that boasts a higher cure rate on tumor-bearing mice.

The virus can directly deliver PD-1 antibodies within the tumors, leading to "immunogenic death" of tumor cells, a process that will lure in activated T-cells to kill more cancer cells, researchers said. Further studies show the virus eliminates the local tumor and distant tumor by stimulating the antitumor immune response, and the cured mice were found to have a long-term antitumor immune memory and can resist the re-attack of the same tumor cells. (Source: Xinhua)

January: Drugmakers slash prices to be eligible for China's bulk-buy program

Global pharmaceutical majors and generic drugmakers chopped by 53% on average prices of some of their off-patent products in the latest bidding round under China’s national bulk-buy program, government officials said late on Friday.

Beijing has been pushing forward the program where drugmakers have to go through a bidding process and cut prices low enough to be considered over generic copies and be allowed to sell their products at public hospitals via large-volume government procurement.

Some global firms such as AstraZeneca and Merck have already cautioned about intensifying price pressures on their mature brands in the world’s second largest drug market, as China expands the usage of the program.

In the latest bidding on Friday that involved 33 drugs and 122 companies, Bayer slashed the price of its popular diabetes treatment acarbose to 0.18 yuan ($0.0262) per pill, 78.5% lower than the price ceiling set by the government in December last year, elbowing some Chinese generic providers out of the tender, according to a Reuters calculation based on the preliminary results released by the authority overseeing the program.

Chinese copycats won bids for most of the 33 drugs, including generic versions for drugs ranging from Johnson & Johnson’s prostate cancer treatment Zytiga to Eli Lilly’s erectile dysfunction treatment Cialis, the results showed.

In Friday’s bidding, for products with two bid winners, 60% of the government procurement volume can be shared among the winners, according to official document detailing the tender rules released in December. For products with four winners and more, as much as 80% of the volume can be shared among the companies.

In the first round of the nationwide implementation of the bulk-buy program in September, global drugmakers including Sanofi and Eli Lilly managed to cut some prices low enough to levels close to those offered by local generic makers. (Source: Reuters)


December: China to encourage hospitals to use medicine from centralized procurement

The National Healthcare Security Administration has asked public hospitals and medical staff across the country to use more medicine from centralized procurement while guaranteeing both quality and quantity. According to the circular released by the administration on Dec 19, the move will benefit more people with the achievements made in the country's medical reform.

In October, the trial area for centralized medicine procurement and usage was expanded from 11 cities to the whole country, significantly lowering medicine prices in areas new to the system. The circular calls on provincial-level medical care administrations to timely supervise and guide local medical institutions' usage of drugs covered by the system. It stresses the establishment and improvement of stimulation and assessment mechanisms for the usage of such medicine. The circular also asks medical institutions to be alert of potential shortage or quality issues of the medicine, and inform local medical care administrations if there are any.

In 2018, the centralized medicine procurement system was put on a trial run in 11 cities across China including Beijing and Shanghai, as a result of which the prices of 25 drugs covered by the system dropped by an average of 52%. (Source: Xinhua)

November: China lowers price of 70 drugs by expanding national insurance catalogue

China has added 70 medicines to its national medical insurance catalogue, which will reduce the cost of the drugs by more than 60% on average, the National Healthcare Security Administration (NHSA) has said. In an announcement on Friday, November 29, the NHSA said the price drop comes after “months-long” price negotiations with authorities, and will take effect on January 1. Of the 70 agreed treatments, 22 are for the treatment of cancer.

“The administration has been actively negotiating with pharmaceutical companies to lower the prices of their products and reduce the financial burden on patients as part of the country's healthcare reform.

“In return, drugmakers will get their products onto the national insurance list, which helps increase sales volume,” the NHSA said.

Xiong Xianjun, head of the administration's medical service department, said some drugmakers had agreed to provide their drugs for the “lowest prices in the world for Chinese patients”. Additionally, he said it was estimated that due to the major price cuts, the out-of-pocket amounts paid by patients will drop by between 80 and 95 percent," he said.

The NHSA said the country’s cancer patients are in urgent need of affordable treatment and are discouraged by prohibitive prices. As a result, some have resorted to purchasing generic, cheap versions from overseas to sustain treatment.

The newly-added cancer drugs include a foreign medication—Jakavi—that treats myelofibrosis, an acute form of bone marrow cancer, developed by Novartis. Deng Yuexin, head of the market access department at Novartis Oncology in China, said the medication, priced at about 8,000 yuan ($1,138) for 60 tablets, will be sold at the world's cheapest price in China. The company said it could not reveal how much of a discount it has granted to the Chinese market due to a confidentiality agreement with Chinese authorities.  "Last year, we failed to reach an agreement with the administration during the price negotiation due to shifts in our global market expansion strategy, which had saddened many of our Chinese patients," she said. "This time, they are bound to be over the moon."

Eight homegrown drugs also made it to the list, including Tyvyt, which targets lymph cancer. It was developed by Suzhou-based Innovent Biologics. He Shiwen, an employee at Innovent, said the price of Tyvyt has been reduced by 64%. "Even before the price cut, Tyvyt was significantly cheaper than its counterparts available on the Chinese market. The medication is now even more affordable for patients," he said. Agreements have also been renewed for another 27 products already on the list, with an average price cut of 26.4 percent, Xianjun said. (Source: Life Sciences IP Review)

November: China to set up more metabolic management centers to better treat diabetes

More hospitals in China are going to set up National Metabolic Management Centers (MMC) in their exploration of a new model of diabetes treatment, according to a national metabolic disease clinical research center.

An association of metabolic management centers along the Yangtze River Delta was established Wednesday, one day ahead of World Diabetes Day. Over 200 MMCs will be set up in the delta region to provide more convenient and standardized treatment for diabetes patients. So far, a total of 343 hospitals in China have such centers.

The MMC, initiated by Ning Guang, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and a diabetes specialist, aims to provide one-stop diagnosis and treatment to help lower the occurrence rate of diabetes and its complications. Patients can also upload data of their blood glucose, blood pressure and heart rate to an intelligent network platform to access online services.

The number of diabetes patients in China has reached 114 million, but the degree of care and treatment standards still fall short. "The MMC is expected to provide more convenient and efficient treatment of diabetes through a high degree of standardization," said Ning.Statistics show that MMCs across the country have provided services for more than 200,000 patients over the last two years. (Source: Xinhua)

November: Diabetes experts issue warning over undiagnosed cases

The number of diabetes patients in China has reached 114 million but almost two-thirds of those have not yet been diagnosed, leading medical experts warned on Tuesday, in the run-up to World Diabetes Day, which falls on Thursday.

Experts have urged people at risk of the disease, through factors including obesity, a family history of diabetes and elevated blood glucose levels discovered in regular physical examination to seek screening, as an early diagnosis and standard disease management can lead to a better prognosis. "If someone very often feels tired, untimely thirst, has blurred vision, edema and foamy urine, or undergoes weight loss for no reason, he or she should not ignore them as such situations may be a warning signal for diabetes," said Zhu Dalong, director of the department of endocrinology of the Nanjing Drum Tower Hospital, Affiliated with the Nanjing University Medical School.

In Shanghai on Tuesday it was announced that China's leading diabetes experts and French pharmaceutical company Servier will initiate a project to focus on patients not yet diagnosed, and to urge those who are diagnosed to pay attention to the hidden risk of complications happening to their eyes, feet and kidneys. "Free screening and clinical activities will be available at more than 100 community health centers, especially those in small and disadvantaged regions throughout the country, to help identify those invisible patients in the project," said Su Qing, director of the department of endocrinology of Xinhua Hospital Affiliated with the Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, and one of the project's initiators. "We will also provide disease education onsite at grass-root communities and on the internet."

Experts say that so far, just one in four of diagnosed patients have accepted health education about the disease. Jiang Sunfang, director of general practice at Zhongshan Hospital Affiliated with Fudan University in Shanghai, said that general practitioners at community health centers can help patients to better control their condition in the long term through disease management approaches, including professional advice on physical sports, diet and blood glucose control. (Source: China Daily)

November: High rate of myopia among adolescents arouses concern

The overall myopia rate among Chinese adolescents reached 53.6% in 2018, according to a news briefing from the Ministry of Education on Wednesday, reported. The myopia rates of six-year-old children, primary school students, junior high school students and high school students were 14.5%, 36%, 71.6%, and 81%, respectively.  The myopia rate among children from 15 provinces was above the average rate across the country, and that among children from 24 provinces was beyond 50%.

Wang Dengfeng, director of the Department of Physical, Health and Arts Education, said causes of myopia were complicated. Excessive schoolwork, abuse of electronic products, limited extracurricular physical exercise, especially outdoor exercise poor eye habits and other factors can all lead to myopia among children, he said.

The ministry and nine other departments issued a series of measures to reduce the burden on primary and secondary school students. It has also deepened reform on physical education to ensure sufficient hours in health and physical exercises. Disciplines and majors related to optometrists have been added at 30 universities and 69 higher vocational colleges to provide support in prevention and control of myopia among children.

The ministry included students' visual health as an index to determine students' physical health status, and will conduct selected examinations at schools as a way of supervision. The ministry, with the National Health Commission, set an annual target of reducing myopia rate among children. It hopes provinces and regions can reduce the myopia rate among children by 0.5 or 1% each year. (Source: China Daily)

November: New anti-cancer drugs among main highlights of CIIE

World-leading pharmaceutical enterprises pledged during a news conference on Tuesday to introduce new anti-cancer products at the second China International Import Expo which will take place from November 5 to 10 in Shanghai.

The area showcasing anti-cancer products and solutions will be a key component of this year's fair, said Shi Huangjun, deputy secretary of the Party committee of the National Exhibition and Convention Center (Shanghai) Co Ltd.


Wu Kun, head of Pfizer China, said that the company will present several innovative drugs at the upcoming trade fair, including a breakthrough therapy for advanced breast cancer. He explained that this is because cancer research is a hot topic in the pharmaceutical industry and has been receiving considerable media attention in recent times. In addition, cancer cases are rising in the country every year. Wu added that the reform of the national registration policy for new drugs has resulted in the faster approval of new pharmaceutical products over the years, and that the pace of new drugs being introduced into the Chinese market today is comparable to that of European countries and the United States.


Also in attendance at the conference was Liu Jianbin, market director of Elekta China, a medical enterprise specializing in radiotherapy treatment for tumors. Liu said that China, which is now the second largest radiotherapy market in the world, is poised to overtake the US and become the first within three years.

Zhang Likun, vice-president of MSD China, said that the company will display high-quality innovative drugs, vaccines and animal health products and services to help promote the Chinese government's HealthyChina2030project. MSD, also known as Merck&Co in the US, will have a stand that measures almost 800squaremeters at this year's fair, he added. Other major pharmaceutical companies that attended the conference and expressed an intent to participate in the second CIIE were Roche and Johnson & Johnson. (Source: China Daily)

October: China's hospitals see dropping average stay, higher efficiency

China's average hospital stay in 2018 was 9.3 days, down by 42.6% compared to that in 1992, according to a report issued by the National Health Commission.  The average hospital stay has been dropping for five years in a row in tertiary hospitals, the top tier of China's hospital grades which has the largest number of beds and provides comprehensive medical services.

The drop in hospital stays shows that China's medical service efficiency kept increasing by developing new medical service models, said Guo Yanhong, an official with the commission. The commission has been optimizing the service procedures in hospitals across the country and promoting the services of ambulatory surgery and early rehabilitation. Guo said the amount, quality and capability of China's medical service have also been increasing in recent years. (Source: Xinhua)

October: China to register treatment of rare diseases

The National Health Commission has launched an information system to register the treatment of rare diseases in a bid to promote their diagnosis and treatment. More than 300 hospitals in a collaborative network on rare diseases are required to register the information of all patients with rare diseases from Nov. 1 and finish registering those treated since 2015 by the end of this year.

With the data collected, the diagnosis and treatment service, medical care and access to medicines for rare diseases are expected to be improved, according to Zhang Shuyang, secretary-general of the China Alliance of Rare Diseases. Misdiagnosis and difficulties surrounding drug use are among the main challenges in diagnosing and treating rare diseases. (Source: Xinhua)

October: China to ease burden of patients with high blood pressure and diabetes

China has taken new measures to lower patients' expenditure on treating high blood pressure and diabetes, according to the National Health Commission. Outpatients with the two chronic diseases will be reimbursed for over 50% of their spending on medicine included in the national basic medical insurance catalog, the commission said. Over 300 million people under the country's basic medical insurance programs will benefit from the move, according to the commission.

The move is also aimed at improving the health of senior citizens, as China has over 180 million elderly citizens suffering from chronic diseases, of whom 75 percent have one type or more. Chronic diseases including high blood pressure and diabetes have become the main causes of death in the country. (Source: Xinhua)

October: China records lower inpatient mortality rate

China's National Health Commission (NHC) on Wednesday said the inpatient mortality rate has been gradually declining in China. China's inpatient mortality rate has fallen from 1.1% in 2005 to 0.44% in 2018, Guo Yanhong, an official with the NHC, said at a press conference.

The mortality rate of hospitalized patients with acute myocardial infarction decreased from 6.12% in 2014 to 5.02% in 2017, according to Guo. In addition, the mortality rate of patients with gastrointestinal bleeding decreased from 3.59% in 2014 to 1.72% in 2017. Guo said the mortality rate of craniocerebral surgeries, which are difficult and risky, has been decreasing for five years.

The total number of medical and health workers in China surpassed 12.3 million, and the number of medical institutions was close to one million in 2018, said Guo. Compared with 1949, average life expectancy in China rose from 35 years in 1949 to 77 years in 2018, according to data previously released by NHC. (Source: Xinhua)

September: China expands drug bulk-buy program, puts pressure on pharma firms

China has expanded a pilot drug bulk-buying program to almost the entire country in an attempt to negotiate lower prices from drug manufacturers, heaping fresh pressure on multinational pharmaceutical companies and their domestic rivals.

The program rolled out last year saw 11 Chinese cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, band together behind a tender process to bulk-buy 25 types of drugs. This caused the price of some medicines to plunge over 90%, state news agency Xinhua said.

The scheme will be expanded to 25 provinces and regions, who will form a league to look for suppliers for these drugs that will be stocked at public hospitals as well as some military and private medical institutions, according to documents released on Sunday by the drug procurement branch of the Shanghai Healthcare Security Administration.

The drugs on the list include off-patent blockbusters that are made by Western pharmaceutical giants, but which have generic made by local players, such as Eli Lilly’s cancer treatment drug pemetrexed, which is sold under the brand name Alimta, and leukaemia therapy imatinib sold by Novartis as Gleevec. The tenders for the two drugs in last year’s pilot program were won by Chinese drugmakers’ generic products.

Beijing’s nationwide expansion measure could add strains on multinational drugmakers to consider larger price cuts for their off-patent blockbusters, a move that they have tended to refrain from in order to maintain their premium brand image, analysts said.

The documents also cited that as many as three winners of the tender for each drug could obtain as much as 70% share of the government’s purchase volumes, while the sole winner of a tender could win up to a 50% share of purchase volumes.

Under the new expansion plan, only the provinces of Fujian and Hebei are not involved in the program on mainland China.

“The 11 cities [in the previous pilot program] accounted for a relatively low market share in China,” John Yung, head of Asia healthcare research at Citi, told Reuters. “But as for the 70% market in the entire nation, the pressure is different.”

Novartis and Eli Lilly offered to cut prices for Gleevec and pemetrexed by about 30% in some provinces earlier this year, according to releases on local governments’ drug procurement websites.  (Source: Reuters)

August: 148 drugs will be newly covered by China's basic medical insurance

A total of 148 drugs have been newly included in a renewed list of drugs covered by China's basic medical insurance. Of the 148 new additions, 47 are western medicines and 101 are traditional Chinese medicines. The renewed list now contains a total of 2643 drugs, including 1322 western medicines and 1321 Chinese patent medicine.

In addition, a total of 150 varieties were transferred off of the list, of which about half were drugs that were revoked by the State Drug Administration, and the rest were mainly drugs with low clinical value, obvious abuse, and better substitution.

This updated national drug reimbursement list is the first comprehensive adjustment after the establishment of the National Medical Insurance Bureau. In the next step, the National Medical Insurance Bureau will work with relevant departments to guide the provinces (autonomous regions and municipalities) to implement the updated drug catalogue. The updated national drug reimbursement list is set to take effect on Jan 1, 2020.

Meanwhile, 128 drugs, which are all exclusive products of high clinical value but have relatively high prices, have been identified following expert reviews as potential additions to the list. The next step will be to confirm the company's intention to negotiate, organize negotiations according to relevant procedures, and incorporate the successful negotiation into the catalogue. (Source: Xinhua)

July: Over 180 million elderly people have chronic diseases in China

China has over 180 million elderly citizens suffering from chronic diseases, of whom 75% have more than one, according to the National Health Commission (NHC).

The average life expectancy of Chinese people was 77 years in 2018, but the healthy life expectancy was 68.7 years, meaning people have more than eight years to live with diseases, said Wang Haidong, director of NHC's Department of Ageing and Health.

The State Council has issued a guideline to implement the country's Healthy China initiative, calling on promoting elderly people's health, improving their living quality and realizing healthy aging. It vowed to decline the incidence of disability among elderly people aged between 65 and 74 and slow the growth of dementia morbidity among those aged 65 and above.

By the end of 2018, China had about 249 million elderly people aged 60 and above and 167 million at the age of 65 and above, accounting for 17.9% and 11.9% of the total population, respectively. (Source: Xinhua)

July: Viral hepatitis epidemic effectively controlled in China

The epidemic of viral hepatitis has been effectively controlled in China thanks to the country's increased prevention and control efforts, according to an official with the National Health Commission (NHC).

The prevalence of hepatitis B surface antigen in children aged between one and four stood at 0.32% in 2014, achieving the World Health Organization's goal of reducing that figure to below 1% ahead of schedule, said Chang Jile, head of the disease control bureau under the NHC. The reported incidence rate of hepatitis A in the country registered a record low of 1.17 per 100,000 people, Chang said in Beijing earlier this week at a conference to mark the World Hepatitis Day which falls on Sunday. In recent years, the country has made continuous efforts in preventing and controlling viral hepatitis and achieved progress in this regard, especially hepatitis B vaccination and the introduction of advanced new medicines for treating hepatitis C.

There are still 86 million people infected with hepatitis B and 10 million infected with hepatitis C in China, Chang said, noting that tasks of fighting viral hepatitis are still arduous. (Source: Xinhua)

June: China encourages production of 34 generic medicines

Chinese authorities on Friday (June 21) released a list of 34 generic medicines, encouraging pharmaceutical firms to develop and produce them. Anti-AIDS drugs Rilpivirine and Abacavir, and leukemia drug Azathioprine are included in the list issued by the National Health Commission (NHC).

The 34 medicines were proposed by experts from the NHC, the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the National Medical Products Administration and the National Intellectual Property Administration. The patents of these drugs are either expired or will soon be expired with no fresh applications for registration, according to a statement concerning the list, which also includes drugs that are in short supply. The list is the first of its kind in the country and new lists will be published at the end of each year starting 2020.(Source: Xinhua)

June: Chinese public hospitals receive increasing government funds

Chinese government subsidies to public hospitals have increased by 15.6% annually since 2010, a health official said on June 14. The government allocated 270.5 billion yuan ($39.26 billion) of subsidies directly to public hospitals in 2018, up from 84.9 billion yuan in 2010, said Zhu Hongbiao, a senior official with the National Health Commission, at a press conference.

However, government funds only accounted for about 10% of the total revenue of public hospitals by the end of 2018, Zhu said. Public hospitals in China used to have three main sources of revenue — service charges, additive charges on medicines and direct government subsidies. An ongoing nationwide reform on public hospitals, which was unveiled in 2017, aimed to remove the additive charge on medicine.

"The revenue of public hospitals will depend on service charges," Zhu said. Local health departments have explored various ways to reform the pricing of service charges so as to make it affordable for the public, he said. They were asked to adopt a gradual approach in raising medical service charge, including the fees of diagnosis, surgery, rehabilitation, nursing and traditional Chinese medicine, according to Zhu.

The raised service charge will be included in the reimbursement of medical insurance schemes so as not to increase the cost, he said, adding that authorities will also work to lower the cost of examinations using large medical equipment. The ongoing reform was also expected to improve the salary, welfare and working environment for hospital staff, he said. (Source: Xinhua)

June: China steps up efforts to tackle anesthetist shortage

China has taken measures on to address its insufficient number of anesthetists. There were about 55.96 million surgeries operated in Chinese hospitals in 2017, but only 76,000 anesthetists were available. To hit the standard of 2.5 anesthetists per 10,000 operations in developed countries, at least another 270,000 anesthetists are needed.

"Recently, the amount of surgeries has risen by 10% annually, while the number of anesthetists has only increased about 5%," said Mi Weidong, an expert in labor analgesia at the Chinese Medical Doctor Association. With people's increasing need for medical services, a major predicament is that the surging number of surgeries largely outnumbers the increase of anesthetists every year.

China has put more efforts into dealing with the shortage of anesthetists in recent years. A total of 382 training bases for anesthetists have been selected to cultivate more professionals, and over 55 universities and colleges began enrolling undergraduate students majoring in anesthesia. Thanks to the efforts, the number of anesthetists in China has increased by 20% in the last five years.

In 2018, a guideline for strengthening and improving anesthesia medical services was issued. It aims for the total number of anesthetists to reach 90,000 by 2020. (Source: Xinhua)

May: Women, children benefit from better health services

The health of women and children has climbed in China because of improved services, and gaps between regions have narrowed significantly, according to a report released on May 27.

Maternal mortality - or deaths related to childbirth - in China has moved below the average of some mid - to high-income countries, while life expectancy at birth is higher than the average, according to Qin Geng, director of the department for women and children's health at the National Health Commission.

Rural and urban maternal mortality rates have both fallen substantially since 1990 - dropping by 81.2% to 19.9 per 100,000 in rural areas, and falling 67.2% to 15.5 per 100,000 in urban areas, according to the National Health Commission report. Last year, pregnant women in rural areas were just 1.3 times more likely to die than their peers in urban areas. In 1990, the risk was 2.2 times more likely, the report said.

The discrepancy between areas also decreased. Last year, for example, the maternal mortality rate in western areas of China, which is less developed, was 25.2 per 100,000, 2.3 times that of eastern regions. In 1996, women in western areas were 4.7 times more likely to die, the report said. Gaps in infant mortality and the overall growth of rural and urban areas, as well as between different regions, have also significantly narrowed over the past three decades, the report said.

A major program launched in 2000 that provided subsidies to pregnant women in rural areas to encourage them to give birth at hospitals has helped to increase the percentage of hospital births to 99.8 percent in rural areas last year, up from 51.7 percent in 1996, Qin said. He noted that this has resulted in reduced maternal mortality in rural areas across China. Qin said that, in general, women's and children's health in China has significantly improved over the past seven decades. When the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949, average life expectancy was 35, but increased to 77 years for babies born last year, he said. Female life expectancy reached 79.4 years in 2015.

The mortality rate for babies was as high as 20% before 1949 because of a lack of doctors and medicine, particularly in rural areas, compared with 0.61% last year, he said. Health authorities have been improving the network of care for women and children across China and have launched various health assistance programs focusing on pregnancy in remote and rural areas. Those programs are expected to continue contributing to reducing regional gaps, he said. (Source: China Daily)

May: Chinese experts warn against threat of antibiotic resistance

Chinese experts have suggested regulating the use of antimicrobial drugs nationwide in response to threat of antibiotic resistance.

The National Health Commission (NHC) issued a circular this March, requiring measures to contain the fast increasing antimicrobial resistance of carbapenems, the most powerful antibiotics. A 2017 report suggests that 20.7% of commonly existing pseudomonas aeruginosa and 56.1% of acinetobacter baumannii, which are likely to cause infections in hospitals, are resistant to carbapenems. Failure to prevent or control antibiotic resistance will lead to difficulties in curing commonplace infections, longer hospital stays and even increased mortality, experts said.

Doctors should prescribe suitable antibiotics of appropriate doses, and hospitals should put guidelines on infection prevention and control into effect, said Yang Xiaoqiang, an expert with the NHC. Liu Xiaolin, deputy general secretary of the Chinese Pharmacists Association, suggested efforts to improve supervision of the clinical use of antimicrobial drugs. (Source: Xinhua)

May: Over half Chinese elderly suffer from hypertension

Over half of Chinese elderly suffer from hypertension, and the prevalence reaches nearly 90% among those aged 80 and above, according to a 2019 guideline on the management of the disease. The document was jointly issued by the Hypertension Branch of the Chinese Geriatrics Society and the National Clinical Research Center of the Geriatric Diseases. Experts suggest a slow and cautious approach in lowering blood pressure for the elderly. May 17 was World Hypertension Day. (Source: Xinhua)

May: China enhances reporting of medical data

China has issued a provisional plan to enhance the reporting and management of data from hospitals nationwide. Hospitals will be asked to report data on medical quality and security, medical services and hospital revenue, among others, according to the plan issued by the National Health Commission (NHC). Hospitals should also report their proportion of revenue from sales of medicines and the use of anti-bacterial medicines and basic medicines.

The plan also asked hospitals to report data related to prescriptions, such as the number of prescriptions on anti-bacterial medicines, narcotic drugs and psychotropic drugs. Reporting of data on the use of hospital beds is also required. The collected data could play a big role in the future formulation of medical policies and the bidding and procurement of medicines, the NHC said. (Source: Xinhua)

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