October 10, 2018 / 12:44 AM / 11 days ago

China approves 17 anti-cancer drugs for medical insurance coverage

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China has approved 17 anti-cancer drugs for inclusion in its national health insurance system, the government said on Wednesday, part of its efforts to make cancer treatment more affordable as the number of cases increases.

China’s State Medical Insurance Administration has been in negotiations with domestic and overseas pharmaceutical companies to lower prices and put more cancer drugs on the list of medicines eligible for reimbursement.

The administration said in a notice that the negotiations were a major part of the government’s strategy to make cancer drugs more affordable to the general public. The 17 drugs, which include azacitidine, will remain eligible until Nov. 30, 2020.

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.

China has vowed to improve the five-year cancer survival rate by 15 percentage points by 2030. The rate stood at 30 percent in 2015, half the U.S. level.

Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Michael Perry

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