HAIKOU -- South China's Hainan province on Thursday brought into effect a trailblazing medical insurance policy that will cover foreign medicines yet to be approved domestically.
The special insurance, launched by the Boao Lecheng International Medical Tourism Pilot Zone, marks another milestone in Hainan's medical innovation after the pilot zone greenlighted the sale of foreign medicines that are unavailable in the rest of the Chinese mainland.
The government-backed insurance covers 70 anti-cancer drugs for 35 common types of cancer. Among these, 49 medicines are yet to be approved for sale in the Chinese mainland market.
The annual premium for Hainan residents is 29 yuan (about $4.3), while the insurance covers up to 1 million yuan in drug costs. Residents from other parts of the Chinese mainland are eligible to purchase the insurance with an annual premium ranging roughly from 40 yuan to 1,300 yuan, the administration said.
According to the administration, nearly 600,000 Hainan residents have purchased the insurance by late September.
The new insurance policy has been hailed for reducing the financial burdens of cancer patients while speeding up the process for overseas pharmaceutical enterprises to enter the Chinese market.
Huang Song, an official with the pilot zone administration, said usually Chinese patients have to wait for five to ten years before a new foreign medicine gets approval for sale in the Chinese mainland market, mainly due to clinical trials as required. The new insurance and other preferential policies now allow patients to bypass the waiting process and buy the latest foreign drugs in Hainan.
According to Huang, international pharmaceutical companies are cooperating with the pilot zone to gain faster access to the Chinese market.
AbbVie Pharmaceutical Trading (Shanghai) Co LTD, whose AML (acute myeloid leukemia) medication is covered by the insurance, said it is greatly encouraged by the new initiative and will work to bring more treatment methods to Chinese patients by actively responding to the policies.
Pfizer Biopharmaceuticals Group, in its response to Xinhua, confirmed the company currently has seven oncology drugs listed in Hainan's special drug insurance catalog, including two new targeted drugs that have been on the market for a year or two.
Liu Zhefeng, deputy director-general of the pilot zone administration, said the insurance is closely related to the construction of the Hainan free trade port.
"We are actively cooperating with overseas pharmaceutical companies to achieve a win-win situation," he said.
The Chinese government on June 1 released a master plan for the Hainan free trade port, aiming to build the island province into a globally influential high-level free trade port by the middle of the century. The plan also encourages the province to explore innovation in the medical insurance sector.