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Some provinces include cancer drug Gleevec into medicare

2015-02-09 15:13 Ecns.cn Web Editor: Mo Hong'e

(ECNS) -- Gleevec, an imported anticancer drug, is being included in health insurance coverage across provinces such as Hebei, Henan, Shanxi and Anhui, where patients could get more than 70 percent of their medicinal costs back, Beijing Morning Post reported on Monday.

The drug, targeted to treat cancers including chronic myelogenous leukemia and gastrointestinal stromal tumors, costs 24,000 yuan ($3837.6) per box, which comes to 120 tablets per month.

A medicine assistance project called 3+9 allows patients to pay for only the first three months' worth of Gleevec and then receive the drug free for the next nine months.

However, this still leaves 72,000 yuan ($11,695) to be paid yearly, an amount that is difficult for some patients to afford, even with all their pensions.

Once Gleevec is covered by health insurance, patients would only need to pay about 20 percent of the amount, which is a great relief.

However, the insurance policy will not be applied nationwide and some patients have no other choice but to resort to imitation equivalents of the medicine.

A cancer patient from Jiangxi province, who has a gastrointestinal stromal tumor, said the effectiveness of imitation Gleevec is only 1 percent lower than that of the genuine drug, and it only costs 200 yuan ($32.49) per month or 2400 yuan per ($389.83) year, which is far cheaper than the 3+9 project.

Liu Guo'en, a professor with the National School of Development, Peking University, said high tax rates, multiple circulation links and few imitation medicines all contribute to the high costs of imported drugs.

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