China has extended an olive branch to squeezed foreign pharmaceutical firms.

By Joe Cash

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s commerce minister said at a roundtable on Wednesday that he expects “further development opportunities” for foreign drug companies, as the ministry laments that drugmakers have been priced out of the market by government procurement policies.

Representatives from 12 companies, including AstraZeneca, Bayer, Merck, Novo Nordisk, Pfizer, Roche, Sanofi, and Takeda, attended the meeting with Wang Wentao, the statement said.

Foreign pharmaceutical firms have struggled to consolidate any foothold in the world’s second-largest economy by maintaining a drug procurement program that forces the government to lower prices and refusing to use any foreign COVID-19 vaccines. Epidemic.

But as China pursues domestic modernization, it will “open up more development opportunities for foreign-funded enterprises,” including the pharmaceutical industry, Wang said at the conference.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said at a meeting with Chinese and foreign business leaders on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Tianjin last month that “there has been a price increase in government procurement.”

But in response to a question from a Merck executive, Lee added, “Our medical and social security systems and our patients must understand that they cannot afford exorbitant prices for new drugs.”

“I tell you honestly that my personal wisdom cannot bring about a relative solution, I hope we can find it as soon as possible through joint efforts,” he said at the time.

Wang said at the meeting on Wednesday that the ministry will expand communication channels to respond to and solve problems, and 25 specific proposals should be adopted at the meeting.

Previously, drugmakers had to drop prices by up to 95 percent to win contracts in China’s drug procurement program, a national scheme in which global pharmaceutical companies and Chinese generic drugmakers compete to wholesale their products to public hospitals.

(Reporting by Joe Cash; Additional reporting by Kevin Yao; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

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