Access to paediatric essential medicines: a survey of prices, availability, affordability and price components in Shaanxi Province, China

Xiao Wang, Yu Fang, Shimin Yang, Minghuan Jiang, Kangkang Yan, Lina Wu, Bing Lv, Qian Shen
PloS One 2014, 9 (3): e90365

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the prices and availability of paediatric essential medicines in Shaanxi Province, China.

METHODS: Price and availability data for 28 paediatric essential medicines were collected from 60 public hospitals and 60 retail pharmacies in six areas of Shaanxi Province using a standardised methodology developed by the World Health Organization and Health Action International, during November to December 2012. Affordability was measured as the number of days' wages required for the lowest-paid unskilled government worker to purchase standard treatments for common conditions. Data on medicine price components were collected from hospitals, wholesalers and distributors to obtain price mark-ups.

FINDINGS: The mean availabilities of originator brands (OBs) and lowest-priced generics (LPGs) were 10.8% and 27.3% in the public hospitals and 11.9% and 20.6% in the private pharmacies. The public procurement and retail prices were 2.25 and 2.59 times the international reference prices (IRPs) for three OBs, and 0.52 and 0.93 times for 20 LPGs. In the private sector, the final prices for OBs and LPGs were 3.89 and 1.25 times their IRPs. The final price in the private sector was 2.7% lower than in the public sector for OBs, and 14.1% higher for LPGs. Generally, standard treatments cost less than 1 day's wages in both sectors. Distribution mark-ups applied to brand salbutamol in Xi'an was 65.5%, and up to 185.3% for generic. Cumulative mark-ups for LPGs in Ankang were also high, from 33% to 50%. The manufacturer's selling price is the largest contributor to the final price in both areas.

CONCLUSIONS: The government should approve a list of national paediatric essential medicines. The availability, price and affordability of these should be improved in both public hospitals and private pharmacies to enable children to obtain effective treatment. Measures should be taken to improve the efficiency of the centralised medicine purchasing system.

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