China is set to add more than 300 new and traditional drugs to its list of medicines the state will help patients pay for, the first change in more than seven years that will boost treatments for cancer, kidney disease, hepatitis and haemophilia.
Blockbuster drugs such as GlaxoSmithKline's hepatitis drug Viread, AstraZeneca's heart drug Brilinta and Sanofi's chronic kidney disease drug Renvela were up for inclusion over the coming weeks, industry executives said, virtually guaranteeing an uplift in sales.
Industry insiders and analysts said oncology drugs were also likely to be added to national and regional lists. Poor access to targeted cancer drugs is a hot-button issue in China, where patients often take on crippling debts or turn to grey markets to get treatment.
Changes to the National Reimbursement Drug List (NRDL), which determines which drugs are part-sponsored by the government, will be a welcome shot in the arm for global drug companies, most of whom saw sales growth slow or contract last year in the world's number two pharmaceutical market.
"It's pretty much the most important list to get on. Being added can really mean sales of a drug skyrocket," said a Shanghai-based executive at a large British drugmaker.
Inclusion on the NRDL means a drug is accessible through state insurance schemes, making it affordable to mass market consumers. Any new drug approved for sale since the last update of the list in 2009 was until now largely paid for out-of-pocket by patients.