China Medical News

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April: China's health literacy reaches 29.7% in 2023

China's health literacy has steadily risen and reached 29.7% in 2023, up 1.92 percentage points from the previous year, according to the National Health Commission (NHC) on Wednesday. A NHC survey revealed that the health literacy among Chinese urban residents was 33.25%, and that in rural areas was 26.23%, increasing by 1.31 and 2.45 percentage points, respectively.

Health literacy is an important indicator of economic and social development and people's health level. The NHC monitored health literacy based on people's awareness of health-related problems, including safety and first-aid, medical care as well as chronical and infectious disease prevention and control. (Source: Xinhua)

April: Diabetics in China have access to affordable treatment

Thanks to China's drug centralized procurement drive, diabetes patients have access to more affordable and advanced insulin injections, said the National Healthcare Security Administration on Wednesday. China rolled out a bulk buy program targeting insulin injections in late 2021, leading to an average price cut of 48 percent. Insulin products chosen by the program became available at reduced prices in May 2022.

The administration said that about 650 million insulin doses involved in the program have been used at public hospitals nationwide since then. The annual usage amount has reached 350 million, compared with 250 million before the program was launched. "The data suggests that as the financial burden of medications has been alleviated, diabetes patients have easier access to insulin therapies and have complied with standard regimens more strictly," said the administration. The program has also narrowed price differences between advanced, third-generation insulin products and older versions. "The usage ratio of third-generation insulin doses rose from 58 to 78 percent after the program, nearing the level seen in European countries," it said.

The administration also stressed that the bulk buy program is aimed at curbing excessively high drug prices and guiding drugmakers to propose reasonable prices, while the massive domestic market also promises them large contracts. Some industry participants have hyped up the perception that centralized procurement is all about soliciting the lowest bids, resulting in a misunderstanding that the bulk buy drive would affect drug quality due to extremely low prices. The administration said that mainstream pharmaceuticals have all won bids during the program and the overall insulin price in China has dropped to relatively low prices compared to the global average. (Source: China Daily)


April: China unifies medicine catalog covered by medical insurance

China has unified the catalog of medicines covered by medical insurance across the country to ensure that all medicines in the catalog are placed under a unified management and payment policy. This measure is driven not only by fairness but also aims to streamline the process of settling medical expenses where they are incurred, said Huang Xinyu, an official of the National Healthcare Security Administration, at a press conference on Thursday.

The official added that since its inception in 2018, the National Healthcare Security Administration has continuously made dynamic adjustments to the catalog of medicines covered by medical insurance, including adding over 700 new medicines to the list. To date, the catalog has included about 3,900 kinds of medicines, covering both Western medicine and traditional Chinese medicine, accounting for over 90 percent of the total expenditure on medicine purchases in public hospitals, according to Huang.

Huang said the administration is also working to make medicines more affordable through multiple means, including negotiation. During the first two months of this year, medical insurance funds had paid over 15 billion yuan (about $2.11 billion) for 397 kinds of medicines covered by price agreements, benefiting 39.5 million people. (Source: Xinhua)

April: China provides medical assistance to 250m people in 2023

China's healthcare security system provided medical assistance to 250 million patients in 2023, according to the country's National Healthcare Security Administration. The medical assistance program, a key part of China's healthcare security system that ensures basic medical services for the vulnerable population, was piloted in the country's rural and urban areas in 2003 and 2005, respectively.

According to the administration, China's medical assistance funds increased from 1.38 billion yuan ($194.5 million) in 2005 to 74.5 billion yuan in 2023. The medical assistance program has expanded its coverage to a wider group of individuals. Through 20 years of development, the program has honed its targeting methods and made them more efficient, it added.

Currently, in most parts of China, patients living on subsistence allowance or in extreme poverty no longer need to pay a minimum medical bill amount, as required in the past, to receive medical assistance. Furthermore, the medical assistance funds now account for a higher ratio of the medical costs, according to the administration. (Source: Xinhua)

April: Over 11 million Chinese people benefit from major disease insurance

Around 11.56 million urban and rural residents in China benefited from the country's major disease insurance in 2023, which eased the burden on individuals by 7,924 yuan (about 1,117 US dollars) on average, according to the National Healthcare Security Administration.

China has established a three-tier healthcare security system comprising basic medical insurance, major disease insurance and medical assistance to mitigate the economic risks posed by medical expenditure. The nearly 1 billion individuals covered by basic medical insurance are also covered by the major disease insurance, and are exempt from extra fees.

Currently, the minimum payment standard for major disease insurance in a certain locality should be no higher than 50% of the per capita disposable income of local residents in the previous year, and the reimbursement rate should not be lower than 60% of their medical bills. The reimbursement rate for recipients of minimum subsistence allowances, people with special difficulties and people who fall into or fall back into poverty should be 5 percentage points higher. (Source: Xinhua)

March: China improving treatments for mothers and newborns

China has improved treatments for high-risk pregnancies and stepped-up screenings of congenital birth defects in recent years, as part of efforts to deal with the rising number of older mothers and an emphasis put on quality care for newborns, the National Health Commission said this week.

Shen Haiping, deputy director of the commission's department of maternal and child health, said at a recent news conference that the proportions of women at an advanced maternal age — widely defined as those over age 35 — and women who have previously given birth are rising due to women choosing to have babies later and shifts in the nation's family planning policy. Official data shows that the average marital age of women rose from 22 years old in the 1980s to 26.3 in 2020. It also shows that women are also giving birth to their first children later, at the average age of 27.2.

In May 2021, China began allowing all married couples to have up to three children. Meanwhile, the nation has managed to continue lowering maternal and infant mortalities, Shen said. Last year, its maternal mortality rate fell nearly 11% from 2020 to 15.1 per 100,000 live births, and its infant mortality rate decreased about 17% during the same period to 4.5 per 1,000 live births, she said.

Shen said that more effort will be made to carry out pregnancy risk assessments and categorize and manage pregnant women based on their risk levels. It is also important to formulate individualized treatment plans for those deemed to be in dangerous conditions. She added that nearly 3,500 treatment centers for seriously ill pregnant women, as well as about 3,320 centers for infants in critical condition, have been set up nationwide, signifying that a comprehensive and coordinated treatment network for pregnant women and newborns has been established.

Amid a drive toward building a birth-friendly society and promoting a long-term balanced population, authorities have also emphasized preventing birth defects. Shen said that the mortality rate of infants due to birth defects and that of children under age 5 have both fallen over 30% compared to five years ago.

Nationwide, the rate of pre-pregnancy examinations has reached nearly 92%, and the rate of prenatal screenings during pregnancy has also exceeded 88%. Among newborns, the screening rates of genetic metabolic diseases and hearing impairments have surpassed 98%, according to Shen.

"Screenings targeting phenylketonuria (a rare inherited disorder that can cause brain damage) are being carried out nationwide to detect infants born with the disease as soon as possible," she said. "Special milk formula that can lessen the disease's impact on intelligence will be delivered to newborns who have the disease, and most patients receiving early treatment can develop nearly normal intelligent capabilities eventually." Shen said that the commission will build more screening and diagnosis facilities for birth defects and step up rehabilitation services to safeguard the health of children.

Li Jie, head of the Nanjing Drum Tower Hospital's prenatal diagnosis center, said during an interview with Xinhua Daily, a newspaper in Jiangsu province, that pre-pregnancy examinations that aim to identify potential risks of congenital disorders, and prenatal screenings that can discover most congenital heart diseases, cleft lip and palate and other malformations have formed the first two lines of defense. "But no screening techniques can guarantee 100% accuracy, and there is the possibility of false negatives or false positives," she said. "For newborns that were born with defects, we can also deliver timely treatment as a third layer of defense. "For instance, newborns who are found with congenital deafness will be fitted with cochlear implants promptly to prevent lifelong hearing loss," she said. (Source: China Daily)

March: More people having stents implanted now they are cheaper

China's centralized procurement drive, which has slashed the price of heart stents by more than 90%, has also accelerated the adoption of state-of-the-art products and helped expand access to stent implantation surgeries, the National Healthcare Security Administration said this week.

Coronary stents, tiny tubes used to open blocked arteries in people suffering from heart disease or who have been hit by an acute heart attack, used to cost around 13,000 yuan ($1,800) each, with imported ones costing nearly 20,000 yuan. The high price — largely due to marketing and distribution expenses — strained the pockets of many patients, especially those who required two or more stents. To address public concerns, the administration's first bulk buy program targeting high-value medical consumables focused on coronary stents. The program, launched in November 2020, aimed to squeeze out intermediate costs and entice manufacturers to cut prices to win bids for volume contracts.

It eventually led to an average price cut of 93%, with the price of each stent falling to 700 to 800 yuan. But the dramatic price reduction has also triggered doubts over the quality of the more affordable products, their availability at hospitals and manufacturers' production capacity to meet bulk demand. The administration said on Monday that from 2021 to last year, the number of coronary stents supplied through the bulk buy program that were used on patients grew by 17% a year. That matched the nationwide increase in coronary intervention surgeries. "The majority of patients in need now opt for stents involved in the bulk buy program and over 95% of stents used across the nation are such products," it said. "In total, about 3.7 million patients used these stents from 2021 to 2023.”

"Clinical experts also said that nearly all mainstream products in the market have been selected and there is barely any need for medical institutions to change the regular brands they use. There is also no change in these products' clinical efficacy." The administration said the ratio of chromium alloy drug-eluting stents — a relatively advanced type compared to bare metal or stainless-steel stents — in use rose from 60% to 95%, signifying an upgrade in product usage by Chinese patients.

Nationwide, the number of medical institutions that carry out stent implantation surgeries grew from 2,400 in 2020 to 3,600 last year. Among them, the number of secondary hospitals — the middle level in a three-tier system — rose from 1,200 to 1,700. (Source: China daily)

March: Healthy lifestyles urged as nation's obesity rates climb

Worldwide, the obesity rates for adults more than doubled between 1990 and 2022, and quadrupled among children and adolescents, according to new study results released by the medical journal The Lancet. The total number of people living with obesity has surpassed 1 billion globally, according to the Lancet's analysis, released ahead of World Obesity Day, which fell on March 4. The growing burden of obesity has deeply affected China, as the proportion of female adults considered obese jumped around fourfold, while the proportion of male adults who are obese surged elevenfold. In 2022, the rate stood at 7.8 percent for Chinese women and 8.9 percent for Chinese men, according to the study.

Obesity is more prominent among younger people in China. The country's obesity rate for girls increased from 0.6% in 1990 to 7.7% in 2022, and rose from 1.3% to 15.2% in 2022 for boys, the study found. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, said, "This new study highlights the importance of preventing and managing obesity from early life to adulthood through diet, physical activity and adequate care, as needed."

While poor diet, lack of physical activity and genetics all play a role in obesity, the National Health Commission, China's top health authority, said earlier this year that unbalanced diet and eating habits, as well as inappropriate infant feeding practices, are fundamental factors leading to the condition.

Hu Jiajin, a professor at Chinese Medical University's Institute of Health Sciences, said that diet, workout habits and other lifestyle choices are closely linked to the risk of obesity. For children, weight gain during their mother's pregnancy, regularly skipping breakfast, excessive intake of sweet foods and drinks, lack of physical activities and insufficient sleep can all add to the risk of becoming obese, he said. "It is important to pool and coordinate resources from all sectors of society to tackle obesity," Hu said.

Wang Yishu, deputy director of Beijing Xiaotangshan Hospital's internal medicine department and a top political adviser, said that while public awareness of managing weight is growing, more efforts are needed to improve and formulate uniform protocols for diagnosis and treatment of obesity. "I suggested setting up a national-level clinical diagnosis and treatment committee targeting obesity and gathering sporadic obesity-related guidelines into a standard protocol," Wang said in an interview with China Central Television during this year's recently concluded two sessions — the annual gatherings in Beijing of China's top legislative and political advisory bodies. She added that hospitals should build multidisciplinary centers covering the fields of nutrition, exercise psychology and drug use for obesity, just like the diabetes centers found in many regions. (Source: China Daily)

January: China's organ transplant technology maximizes donor-organ potential

An organ transplant technique adopted by a Chinese hospital has garnered widespread attention for its potential in solving the problem of donor organ ischemic injury in organ transplantation surgery. Ischemia-free organ transplantation (IFOT), a technique pioneered by Professor He Xiaoshun at the First Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, the capital of south China's Guangdong province, was applied in a surgery carried out last December. Organ transplant experts from Germany, the United States, and the World Health Organization (WHO) met at the hospital to observe the liver transplant operation.

In traditional organ transplantation, donor organs are perfused rapidly to obtain them, preserved with ice, transported, and then implanted into the patient. During the process, the blood supply to the organs is interrupted completely, leading to unavoidable ischemic damage and compromising the quality of the organs.

The team has dedicated in solving the problem of donor organ ischemic injury in traditional organ transplantation surgery for years. In 2016, the team developed a "multi-organ normothermic perfusion device," which can simulate the human body to provide blood and nutrition for the donor organ. It has, for the first time, made the ex vivo multi-organ remain "fresh" for a long time. With the help of this device, He's team successfully carried out the first ischemia-free liver, kidney, and heart transplants worldwide in 2017, 2019, and 2021, respectively.

Compared with traditional transplantation, the new technology has significantly reduced post-operative complications and improved the utilization of organs. The relevant research results were also published in international medical journals and academic conferences, arousing widespread attention in this field. "They have shown that the technology is safe and can solve the problems we are facing," said Bjorn Nashan, former president of the German Transplantation Society, who has been to Guangzhou more than once to observe the surgery.

Optimistic about the future of organ transplantation in China, Nashan moved to China in 2017 to work as director of the organ transplant center at a hospital. Nashan said he hoped to work with the Chinese team to bring the technology to Germany and other countries in the future. "Professor He and his team have demonstrated that they are at the cutting edge in organ transplantation. The technology can be promoted to regions within and outside China through cooperation," said John Fung, president-elect of the Transplantation Society.

"The innovations and surgical techniques have increased the possibility of utilizing more organs, especially those not in good condition and that otherwise may have been rejected, thus maximizing the potential of donor organs," said Efstratios Chatzixiros, adviser on transplantation (organs, tissues, cells) at the WHO. (Source: Xinhua)


December: China to Waive Import Tariffs for Active Ingredients of Anti-cancer and Rare Disease Drugs in 2024

According to the 2024 Tariff Adjustment Plan recently published by the Customs Tariff Commission of the State Council, China will waive import tariffs for 62 active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) of anti-cancer drugs and 5 APIs of rare disease drugs, starting from January 1, 2024. The plan covers 1,010 commodities, with interim import tax rates being set lower than most-favored-nation tariffs for the year 2024.

Notably, certain medical products will be exempted from import taxes. Apart from APIs for the anti-cancer and rare disease drugs listed below, medical products such as nirmatrelvir for COVID-19, insulins for diabetes, vaccines, gene therapies, and more will also enjoy interim zero tariffs. (Source: ChemLinked)

For the details, please visit ChemLinked website:

December: 126 drugs to be added to national basic medical insurance

China will add 126 drugs to a revised national basic medical insurance list, the National Healthcare Security Administration said. Newly added products will include 21 anti-cancer drugs, 17 antivirals or anti-COVID medicines, 15 drugs for treating diabetes, mental disorder, rheumatism and other chronic diseases, and 15 drugs targeting rare diseases, the administration said at a news conference. One drug will be removed from list. The new list, which will come into effect on Jan 1, will include 3,088 drugs.

Among newly included drugs, 121 were added after successful negotiations with manufacturers, with their average prices cut by 61.7%. "Patients are expected to save 40 billion yuan ($5.6 billion) in the next two years thanks to price negotiations and reimbursement policies," the administration said. It has updated the national insurance drug list for six consecutive years, with 744 drugs added to it during that period. (Source: China Daily)

December: Price drop coming for 30 medical devices

The fourth round of China's centralized bulk medical procurement has resulted in a 70% drop in the average price of 30 types of medical devices, according to the National Healthcare Security Administration.

The products cover intraocular lens and sports medicine consumables for the treatment of cataract patients and patients who need sports medicine surgery due to labor or sports muscle or ligament damage. "The aging population has led to an increasing demand for intraocular lenses," and "cases of damaged joints, pulled muscle and strained ligament are surging in the national fitness boom." said Jiang Changsong, an assistant to the dean of the National Healthcare Institute of the Capital Medical University in Beijing.(Source: China Daily)

November: Newly reported AIDS cases in Beijing down 49% since 2016

The overall HIV/AIDS epidemic in Beijing is at a low prevalence level, with a steady decline in the number of new cases, said the city's center for disease control and prevention.

Since China reported the first case of AIDS in 1985, the capital city has reported a total of 40,840 cases of HIV/AIDS as of October 31 this year. Among all the infected, 93.45% were transmitted through sexual contact, with 68.41% through contact between men and 25.04% through contact between individuals of different genders. Among the total infections, 3.32% through drug injection, and the rest were infected through other transmission routes, according to a Beijing News report.

The number of newly reported cases residing in Beijing has seen a decline since 2016, with a 49.31% decrease in 2022 compared to the same period in 2015. From January to October this year, there was a 3.97% decrease compared to the same period in the previous year. Currently, there are a total of 27,285 infected people living in Beijing. (Source: China Daily)

November: Nation aims to improve cancer survival rates

China aims to raise the overall five-year survival rate for cancers to over 46.6% by 2030 by rolling out comprehensive measures including promoting healthy lifestyles, expanding screening and accelerating the development of new technologies, officials and experts said. China reports nearly 4.1 million new cancer cases each year, with lung, colorectal, stomach, liver and breast cancers the most common. Cancer, cardiovascular diseases and other chronic illnesses account for over 80% of deaths in the country.

Guo Yanhong, director of the National Health Commission's medical emergency response department, said during a news conference that the proportion of people surviving for at least five years after a cancer diagnosis rose from 40.5% in 2015 to 43.7% last year. "The upward trend seen in cancer incidence and death rates in China has been initially curbed, and the incidence of prevalent cancers, such as those in the esophagus, stomach and liver, has been decreasing annually," she said.

Drawing lessons from past years' efforts, the commission launched an action plan on November 15th to further curtail rising rates of cancer incidence and mortality, through addressing risk factors, strengthening screening and early interventions and implementing standardized therapies across the nation. The action plan calls for increasing awareness rates of key knowledge on cancer prevention to over 80% by 2030. The rate currently stands at 70%, said Guo.

Zhang Yong, Party chief of the National Cancer Center, said that about 40% of cancers can be prevented through reining in risk factors and adopting a healthier lifestyle, such as quitting smoking and reducing alcohol use, obtaining vaccines against hepatitis B and human papillomavirus and minimizing exposure to carcinogens, especially at workplaces. "It is also important to undergo authoritative cancer screening and anti-cancer health examinations so as to detect potential malignant tumors at an early stage," he added.

Zhang said that Shanghai, Tianjin and the provinces of Zhejiang and Jiangsu have begun offering free cancer screening for residents in recent years. By the end of last year, the early diagnosis rate of key cancer types in high-prevalence regions topped 55%.

More efforts will be made to expand screening, integrate screening with the initiation of early diagnosis and treatment, and launch awareness campaigns to improve the public's acceptance of such programs. "We will also step up research into developing novel screening and early treatment technologies, targeting the most common cancer types in China," he added.

Zhang said that the five-year survival rate for breast cancer in China has reached 83%, nearing the level in developed countries. The rate for esophageal cancer has also surpassed that in some European and American countries. "China is among the leading groups globally regarding its cancer prevention and treatment technologies," he said. (Source: China Daily)

November: Health experts call for greater awareness of COPD in China

Health experts called for improving public awareness of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) — one of the most common and deadly chronic respiratory illnesses in China — and boosting the screening and treatment capability of grassroots medical workers.

COPD, usually associated with smoking or long-time exposure to air pollution, causes symptoms such as difficulty in breathing, chronic cough - sometimes with phlegm, and exhaustion. However, it is preventable and curable. The disease is the third leading cause of deaths worldwide and affects around 13.7% of people aged 40 and above in China, according to Wang Chen, a prominent respiratory disease and critical care expert and director of the National Center for Respiratory Medicine.

However, Wang said that awareness of the disease pales markedly when compared with that of other common chronic illnesses, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke. A survey led by the center shows that over 60% of participants "have no idea of COPD". Among medical workers in community or rural health clinics, only half of them have a basic understanding of the disease.

Yang Ting, deputy director of the center, said that an epidemiological investigation has shown that less than 10% of people in China have taken a pulmonary function test — which is essential for diagnosing the disease. "Moreover, the primary therapy for treating the disease on the grassroots level should be inhaled drugs, but our survey shows that grassroots medical workers most often prescribe antibiotics, cough medicines used to help clear phlegm and even oral corticosteroid medications," she said.

"The top priority regarding controlling the disease should be on the grassroots level, and more efforts are needed to step up training for local medical workers on standardized treatment and improving access to proper drugs," she said. Wang also suggested people aged 40 and above to undergo screening of the disease, and include the pulmonary function test into the regular health checkups. (Source: China Daily)

November: Type 1 diabetes becoming more prevalent in China

The incidence of type 1 diabetes in China is growing rapidly and occurring at a younger age, with the peak age of onset between 10 and 14 years old, experts said ahead of the World Diabetes Day, which will fall on November 14th this year.

The number of type 1 diabetes patients below 15 in the country has nearly quadrupled over the past two decades, and the disease has become more common among children below 10 and even younger than 5, said Zhou Zhiguang, director of the National Clinical Research Center for Metabolic Diseases. "Both the number and growth rate of type 1 diabetes among children in the country are ranked the fourth in the world," he said.

Diabetic patients rely on insulin to control blood glucose level, and children suffering from type 1 diabetes must have their blood glucose measured four to eight times and take at least four injections of insulin on a daily basis. This places a great burden on youngsters' disease management and social psychology, said Jin Sheng, who is in charge of a social organization providing support for minors suffering from the disease and their families in Shanghai.

Yang Tao, director of the endocrinology department of the First Hospital Affiliated with Nanjing Medical University, said that many parents of young patients are disappointed that their children will have to take insulin injections for their entire life.

Tzield, an innovative therapy that can postpone the onset of type 1 diabetes for patients aged 8 or older for nearly three years, made its Asia debut during the 6th China International Import Expo held in Shanghai last week. The injection by French pharmaceutical company Sanofi, which was approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration last year, is the world's first and only innovative drug that can delay the onset of type 1 diabetes, and marks a major breakthrough in the treatment of type 1 diabetes since the advent of insulin a century ago. (Source: China Daily)

November: Latest bulk drug procurement further lowers prices

The latest and ninth round of China's centralized drug procurement program has resulted in an average price cut of 58% on 41 types of medicine, the National Healthcare Security Administration said. Drugs involved in the bulk-buy tackle diseases including high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, infection, and gastrointestinal and cardiovascular conditions, and around half of them are injectable medications.

The price reduction is expected to save 18.2 billion yuan ($2.5 billion) annually. Patients can access drugs at the discounted prices in March, it added. The bidding result released on November 6th is preliminary and a final version will be published soon. Held in Shanghai on Monday, the bidding involved 382 medical products from 262 enterprises, and around 78% of participating companies ended up winning bids.

Jiang Changsong, an official of the National Healthcare Institute of Capital Medical University in Beijing, said that this round also includes eight types of medications in short supply. The ratio of injectable medications is also among the highest compared to previous programs.

Among selected drugs is a capsule, named Lenalidomide, used to treat multiple myeloma, a blood disease. The price per 25-milligram capsule will drop from around 200 yuan to 15 yuan, saving patients around 3,880 yuan per month.

Another highlight of this round is that the procurement cycle has been extended to nearly four years, compared with the previous one year. The administration said that the extension would enable drugmakers to devise long-term development plans based on the demand of the market and prevent stepping up manufacturing capacity and wasting excess capacity. (Source: China Daily)

November: China sees continuous improvement in health service capacity

The health service capacity of medical institutions in China has seen significant improvement in 2023, Chinese health officials said. From January to September, medical institutions in China saw a total of 5.11 billion medical visits, statistics from China's National Health Commission (NHC) showed. The commission also recorded 220 million hospital discharges of recovered patients in that period. According to Lei Haichao, deputy director of NHC, the statistics indicate that the people's demand for health services has been effectively met, and these services were delivered with greater efficiency.

Basic public health services provided at the primary level have been bolstered as well. NHC official Wang Bin said that in the first half of 2023, nearly 90 million people aged 65 and above enjoyed health management through such services, increasing by 40% compared with the same period last year. Health authorities and medical institutions have also made proactive efforts to ensure the accessibility and equitability of health services. Currently, 82.7% of all medical institutions at or above the secondary level in the country have established a system that enables patients to schedule appointments for diagnosis and treatment, Lei said. (Source: Xinhua)

October: China establishes national standardized pain treatment center

China unveiled a national standardized pain treatment center in its capital city of Beijing, aiming to expand the accessibility of quality medical resources for pain treatment at the grassroots level. Chronic pain lasting longer than three months has become a growing concern for an increasing number of people. Experts say chronic pain requires early treatment due to its complicated and varied causes, and the longer it continues, the more difficult it is to treat.

The country has scheduled pilot programs in a number of hospitals nationwide for the period of 2022-2025, focusing on the comprehensive management of pain, according to a work plan released in 2022. The newly established center has started evaluating 30 community-level hospitals, and plans to complete the construction of standardized pain treatment centers in 10 to 15 community-level hospitals by 2024. (Source: Xinhua)

October: Study finds generic drugs included in bulk-buying initiative effective and safe

A recent study led by the National Healthcare Security Administration found that generic drugs included in the second and third rounds of China's centralized drug procurement program were as effective and safe as their branded counterparts.

China launched the first round of the bulk-buying initiative in 2018 and has now rolled out seven subsequent ones. Designed to reduce the cost of expensive drugs and alleviate the financial pressure on patients, the bulk purchases have covered 333 types of medicines. The majority of the drugs are generic versions of name-brand products, and that led to some concerns about their efficacy and safety among some patients and medical workers. To dispel such concerns, the administration rolled out a study in 2019 to measure the efficacy and safety of 14 types of drugs selected during the first round of the procurement program. That study found the generic medicines were as effective and safe as their name-brand counterparts.

Zhang Lan, director of the pharmacology department at Capital Medical University's Xuanwu Hospital, told a news conference in Beijing on Tuesday that a second evaluation study initiated in June 2021 — which covered the second and third rounds of the program — had looked into 23 types of medicines used to fight infection and treat cancers and metabolic, endocrinological, mental health, cardiovascular and digestive conditions. "Overall, we have reached the conclusion that these drugs' efficacy and safety parallel those of branded drugs," she said. Zhang added that treatment outcomes varied between patients and it was possible that a certain ratio of patients would find a particular drug less effective than expected. "It is unreasonable to jump to the conclusion that generic drugs are inferior to their branded counterparts based on a few sporadic cases," she said. "Only through studies of a large population can we arrive at a scientific conclusion." (Source: China Daily)

October: China has 14.41 million health workers

China had 14.41 million health workers at the end of last year, 425,000 more than the previous year, statistics from the National Health Commission (NHC) showed.

The statistics released by the NHC revealed there were about 1 million medical and health institutions across China in 2022, of which more than 80,000 feature traditional Chinese medicine. The number of active physicians (physician assistants) and registered nurses per 1,000 people stood at 3.15 and 3.71, respectively, both figures higher than those in 2021, said the NHC. By 2025, the number of health workers in China will hit 16 million, according to a health talent development plan for the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-2025).

The NHC also reviewed progress on improving health care for women and children, as well as the health conditions of China's aging population. Statistics showed that in 2022, 9.56 million babies were born, and the mortality rate among children under 5 stood at 6.8 per 1,000 and the infant mortality rate was 4.9 per 1,000, while the maternal death rate had dropped to 15.7 per 100,000. By the end of 2022, nearly 19,500 primary medical and health institutions suited to elderly patients had been built, said the NHC. (Source: Xinhua)

September: Alzheimer's disease on the rise among under 60s

The number of people under 60 with Alzheimer's in China has been growing fast, and experts have called for strengthening early prevention efforts and enhancing the development of novel drugs.

Those aged 60 to 79 account for about 62% of people newly diagnosed with the memory-robbing disease, but the proportion of new cases in the under 60s take up 21%, much higher than the global average of around 5 to 10%, according to a report released by the Alzheimer's disease branch of the Chinese Aging Well Association on Wednesday. The finding suggests that Alzheimer's is increasingly affecting younger people of working age in China, highlighting the need to step up prevention, as well as early screening and diagnosis of the disease across the whole of society.

Sun Yongan, a neurologist from Peking University First Hospital, said that despite growing awareness of the disease, more efforts are needed to spread education on early interventions to grab the golden window of opportunity to initiate treatment. "We have called for carrying out screening, diagnosis and therapies as early as possible to win more time to slow down and contain the progression of the disease," he said. "Meanwhile, it is important to introduce novel treatments to address a lack of precise and effective clinical therapies targeting the disease."

China has about 15.1 million dementia patients aged 60 and above, including 9.83 million with Alzheimer's. Creating effective drugs for the disease has been a global challenge. In China, five medications have been approved for treating the disease, but they only work to contain symptoms in the short term, and are unable to target the pathogenic mechanism to slow the disease's progression.

On Sunday, a separate report released by the China Association for Alzheimer's pointed out that the incidence rate of dementia, including Alzheimer's, has been rising gradually over the past decades. The incidence rate for men and women above 60 is around 2.4 and 4.2% respectively.

The report suggested prioritizing prevention and establishing a comprehensive system to monitor cases and deaths of Alzheimer's and other dementia diseases. It also suggested setting up early prevention demonstration programs in cities with deeply aged populations. (Source: China Daily)

September: China releases second catalog of rare diseases

Chinese health authorities have recently published the country's second catalog of rare diseases. It adds 86 more rare diseases on top of the 121 rare diseases released in their first catalog in 2018, with now a total of 207 diseases. The entire list in English can be found in the ChemLinked website;


August: China releases five-year plan for enhanced birth defect prevention

China's National Health Commission has released a five-year plan aimed at more efficient prevention and control of birth defects and reducing the incidence of birth defect-related fatalities and disabilities.

According to the plan, the rate of prenatal screening in China is expected to reach at least 90% by 2027, while the mortality rates of infants and children under five due to birth defects will be below 0.1% and 0.11%, respectively. The plan also called for improvement in preventing and treating major birth defects such as severe congenital heart disease, Down Syndrome, and thalassemia major.

By 2027, the diagnosis and treatment rates of inherited metabolic diseases such as phenylketonuria and congenital hypothyroidism within two weeks after birth are expected to reach 90%. The diagnosis rate of congenital hearing loss within three months and intervention rate within six months after birth are expected to both reach 90%, according to the plan. (Source: Xinhua)

August: Over 41% Chinese men, 28% women overweight or obese

About 41.1% of Chinese men were overweight or obese compared with 27.7% of Chinese women, according to a research published on the medical journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism on Aug 17.

Researchers from the First Medical Center of Chinese PLA General Hospital analyzed data of about 15.8 million eligible participants from 519 Meinian health check-up centers across 243 cities in China. As per Chinese BMI classification, 34.8% of the studied population was overweight and 14.1% was obese. The eligible participants were aged 18 or above. And 52.8% were male. Chinese body mass index classification criteria define overweight as BMI 24 to 28 kg/m2 and obesity as BMI at or above 28 kg/m2.

There are several reasons why men are more prone to obesity, with causes usually related to the stress and emotions in life or work, said Wu Xueyan, a professor from the endocrinology department at Peking Union Medical College Hospital. Long-term excessive stress and negative emotions could lead to the increased secretion of stress hormone - adrenal glucocorticoid, which plays a role in combating insulin and increasing abdominal fat accumulation, according to Wu. In order to relieve stress and release emotions, men often resort to unhealthy lifestyles such as drinking alcohol and overeating, and long term insufficient or irregular sleep can also lead to male obesity, Wu said.

By region, the proportion of overweight and obesity in the north is generally higher than that in the south, with Inner Mongolia (37.1%), Shandong (37.1%), and Hebei (36.6%) ranking among the top three. The prevalence of overweight peaked at age 50 to 54  in males and at age 65 to 69  in females. The prevalence of obesity peaked at age 35 to 39  in males and at age 70 to 74  in females.

When assessed using Chinese BMI classification, participants in higher BMI groups tended to have a greater number of complications. In the overall population, the most commonly reported complications were fatty liver disease (34.9%), prediabetes (27.6%), dyslipidemia (24.9%) and hypertension (17.6%). In the overall population, 40.3% of participants had no complications, 29.6% had one complication, 17.7% had two complications, 9.1% had three complications and the remainder had four to eight complications.

Due to poor diet and sedentary behavior, the population with metabolic syndrome, characterized by abdominal obesity, has increased significantly in modern times, said Li Buman, deputy director of endocrine immunology department at Tsinghua University Yuquan Hospital. Metabolic syndrome is a key predictor of type 2 diabetes and a high risk factor of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases, Li said. Early detection, evaluation, and intervention are important strategies for preventing obesity-related complications. (Source: China Daily)

August: Shanghai rolls out anti-corruption campaign aimed at medical supplies sector

Shanghai has launched a campaign to crack down on improper procurement and sales of medical supplies and provision of medical services, according to a document released by the Shanghai Municipal Health Commission and 12 other city-level government authorities on Monday. The campaign will mainly focus on preventing medical workers from taking commissions for any procurement of high-value medical consumables and ensuring that workers adhere to professional ethics.

Regarding the procurements, the document stipulated that the authorities will look into key hospital departments such as orthopedics, blood purification, cardiovascular medicine, examination, testing, and rehabilitation, and crack down on illegal activities, including exchanging high-value consumables, fabricating prices for such consumables, and charging for different parts of the consumables.

Medical workers are forbidden to accept money, gifts, vouchers, tourism products and other forms of properties provided by patients and their families throughout medical treatment, according to the document. They are also not allowed to receive any forms of rewards or gifts provided by enterprises or individuals involved in the manufacture or commercialization of medical devices, drugs, and reagents.

The introduction of the campaign in Shanghai comes following a national conference to combat corruption in medical and pharmaceutical fields that was held by the national discipline inspection authority on July 28. Some medical insiders believe that this unprecedented anti-corruption campaign will reduce unfair competition in the industry and promote the rational use of truly innovative and clinically valuable drugs and devices. (Source: China Daily)

June: China launches three-year campaign to fight Alzheimer's disease

Health authorities in China have launched a nationwide campaign that will be carried out from 2023 to 2025 to promote the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer's disease (AD). According to a circular by the National Health Commission that was made public on Wednesday, efforts will be made to raise public awareness of the disease and guide the elderly population to pay attention to their brain health.

Local authorities are encouraged to conduct cognitive function screenings among elderly people to ensure early detection and prompt medical intervention, and enable more relevant patients to receive appropriate treatment in order to reduce the incidence or slow the progression of the disease, according to the circular. The circular has also vowed to promote the accessibility of technical assistance to support those who take care of AD patients in order to alleviate their burden. (Source: Xinhua)

May: Medical circuits to serve isolated and remote villages without resident doctors

China plans to institutionalize sending rural doctors to isolated and remote areas on a regular basis by 2025, as part of efforts to address the shortage of medical workers in the most undeveloped areas of its countryside, according to a recent circular. For villages with small populations where recruiting a rural doctor is not viable due to limited demand, as well as for relocated communities that do not yet have their own medical facilities, local health authorities are to arrange for township-level health centers to set up a medical services circuit, and for county-level health institutions to offer technical support.

The circuit team should comprise clinical physicians, TCM doctors, nurses, public health specialists and support staff. They should offer their services at least twice a week, with each round lasting no less than half a day, according to the circular. The circular was released by the National Health Commission in March, in conjunction with the National Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine and the National Administration of Disease Prevention and Control. "Medical circuit teams should arrange service hours according to the living and working habits of rural populations, to provide them with access to high-quality, basic healthcare service on their doorsteps," it stated.

In addition to circuit services, the document stated that medical workers from township-level medical institutions will be dispatched to villages with large populations that have been unable to recruit qualified rural doctors. "Medical workers sent to village clinics should work at least five days a week, and work in the same village for no less than six consecutive months," the circular stated. In addition, medical circuit teams and aid workers will be tasked with training local doctors to manage common and major illnesses, and will be encouraged to set up telemedicine cooperation networks to offer diagnosis and treatment to patients.

In a statement explaining the rollout of the new document, the commission said that there is currently a marked shortage in healthcare capacity in some rural regions, and becoming a rural doctor has low appeal to job seekers. "It is likely that the previous situation of villages without local doctors could reemerge… and so we have introduced these new measures to allocate quality medical services to the grassroots level, and increase the access of rural people to convenient and affordable healthcare services," it said.

Dai Jianjun, president of the People's Hospital of Jinxiang County in Jining, Shandong province, told China Central Television that the hospital has opened outposts at 14 township-level clinics and community service centers in Jinxiang county, and regularly dispatches 56 specialists to see patients, visit wards and train rural doctors. (Source: China Daily)

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