Contradictory goals plague China's pharmaceutical policy. The government wants to develop the domestic pharmaceutical industry and has used drug pricing to cross-subsidize public hospitals. Yet the government also aims to control drug spending through price caps and profit-margin regulations to guarantee access even for poor patients. The resulting system has distorted market incentives, increased consumers' costs, and financially rewarded inappropriate prescribing, thus undermining public health. Pharmaceuticals account for about half of total health spending in China, representing 43 percent of spending per inpatient episode and 51 percent of spending per outpatient visit. Yet some essential medicines are unavailable or of questionable quality.
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