BEIJING, Jan. 10 (Xinhua) -- China will carry out centralized bulk-buying of drugs and high-value medical consumables on a regular and institutionalized basis, to further lower medical costs for patients, according to a decision made at the State Council's Executive Meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang on Monday.
"The outcomes of the centralized bulk-buying program over the past few years should be fully recognized, as it has not only delivered real benefits to patients, but also motivated enterprises to step up product research and development and enhance quality," Li said.
The meeting noted the steady progress in the reform of centralized bulk-buying of drugs and high-value consumables in recent years, effectively curbing drug over-pricing through market-based mechanisms.
By the end of last year, the program had helped save 260 billion yuan in medical insurance costs and patients' expenditures. Going forward, centralized bulk-buying need to be put on a regular and institutionalized footing to bring down the prices of medical services and drugs.
"More drugs for chronic diseases and common illnesses as well as more high-value medical consumables should be incorporated into the bulk-buying program, as this is what people care much about," Li said.
The meeting decided to advance the national bulk-buying program, with focus on drugs for chronic diseases and common illnesses. Sub-national authorities will undertake provincial procurement or inter-provincial joint procurement of drugs that are not covered by the national-level bulk-buying. By the end of this year, the total number of drugs that each provincial region bulk-purchases at both national and provincial levels shall be no less than 350.
The coverage of bulk-buying regarding high-value medical consumables will be expanded in a well-paced manner, and the bulk-buying of orthopedic consumables and dental implants which are of high public concern will be rolled out at national and provincial levels respectively.
"Quality is of utmost importance for drugs and medical consumables. We must make sure it is not compromised under any circumstance and work even harder to protect people's health," Li said.
The meeting stressed the need for long-term, stable supply of selected drugs and consumables. Medical institutions should use the selected products on a priority basis as appropriate. Oversight will be stepped up to ensure that price cuts will not come at the cost of the quality of selected products.
"We must fully implement the policy for the use of medical insurance funds saved in the procurement, and advance the reform of the remuneration system to raise the salary of medical workers as appropriate and keep them better motivated." Li said. "COVID response and economic and social development should be advanced in parallel. People's normal access to medical services must be guaranteed during the pandemic."