July 30, 2020 / 5:01 AM / 15 days ago

China to add 56 drugs to price-slashing bulk-buy programme

BEIJING (Reuters) - China has added 56 medicines, including some global blockbuster drugs, to its state bidding programme aimed at procuring key treatments at big discounts in return for offering large-volume state contracts, state agency said.

The procurement authorities released late on Wednesday the drug list for the latest round of bidding.

It includes some products that contributed more than $1 billion each to foreign drugmakers’ sales in 2019 but face challenges from generic versions offered by local drugmakers.

They include AstraZeneca Plc’s heart disease treatment Brilinta, Pfizer Inc’s and Bristol Myers Squibb Co’s blood-thinning blockbuster Eliquis, and Novartis AG’s diabetes drug Galvus.

Beijing has pledged to lower consumer costs of off-patent drugs by pushing forward a national scheme where drugmakers have to go through a bidding process and chop prices low enough to elbow out competitors to be eligible to sell their products at public hospitals in bulk.

The scheme helped China notch up more than 50% of price cuts on average from drugmakers at home and abroad in its previous bidding held in January.

While competition for older brands intensify, Novartis said in an earning call last week that new drug launches are expected to be a main driver of its growth in China.

For most products on the list, if only one company wins the bid to supply a certain drug, the winner can bag up to half of the total procurement volume in the first year, according to the plan. If a product has more than four bidwinners, 80% of the volume can be shared.

Reporting by Roxanne Liu and Tony Munroe in Beijing; Editing by Miyoung Kim and Rashmi Aich

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