Patients at public hospitals will save more money beginning Sept 25, when the government starts to heavily subsidize a list of common medicines.
China's first essential medicine list is part of the country's ongoing medical reform, which aims to assure all Chinese have basic healthcare services.
Most of the 307 drugs on the list are prescription-only drugs, 200 of which are western medicines. The rest are traditional Chinese medicines, which have long been used in China and are proven to be safe, effective and reasonably priced, experts say.
"The inclusion of essential medicines in the overall reform signals the government's intent to ensure high-quality care that is affordable for the whole population," said Vivian Tan, press officer of the Beijing office of the World Health Organization.
The list is a primary step in establishing a drug supply and usage institution that will secure drug safety and lower the general drug costs.
The institution will cover 30 percent of the cost of China's public medical facilities, particularly the grassroots ones, by 2011 and all of them by 2020.
"For patients, the national essential drug institution will help lower their drug expenses substantially," Hu Shanlian, public health expert with the Shanghai-based Fudan University, told China Daily yesterday.
Under the institution, different government agencies will work together to ensure ample supply, safety and quality of the listed drugs for the treatment of the most common diseases, and promote their uses at public hospitals, Hu said.