SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China's new medical insurance regulator will begin negotiations with domestic and overseas pharmaceutical companies to lower prices of cancer drugs in a bid to cut the financial burden on patients, state news agency Xinhua said on Saturday.
The State Medical Insurance Administration said it was preparing to include more cancer drugs on its list of medicines eligible for reimbursement, and said 10 foreign and eight domestic pharmaceutical companies had expressed a willingness to work with the authority.
China's cancer rates have been soaring, driven by growing numbers of over-60s, heavy smoking among men and exposure to pollution. The National Cancer Center said last year there were 4.29 million new cases every year and 2.81 million deaths.
Delegates to parliament said in May that the five-year cancer survival rate stood at just 30 percent in 2015, less than half the U.S. level, and the government has vowed to improve that by 15 percentage points by 2030.
Improving insurance coverage is one of the biggest challenges facing China as its population gets older. It has vowed to make medicine and treatment cheaper and more easily available.
A national medical insurance system began covering 16 brands of targeted cancer drugs last year, cutting prices by 44 percent on average, Xinhua reported this year.
China also removed tariffs on all imported cancer drugs starting from May 1, following a decision by Premier Li Keqiang in April.
(Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Robert Birsel)