The world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, which are struggling with pricing pressures in China, are hoping that wider access to drugs and a faster approval process will boost sales. China is the world’s second-largest pharmaceutical market with sales worth $116.7bn in 2016. But the spread of public health insurance has handed provincial governments greater power over prices. A range of companies has reported slowing or even falling sales in China, with Merck saying that its sales there fell 3% in the first quarter. GlaxoSmithKline suffered a 5% drop in first-quarter sales, coming after a 12% decline in its China sales last year that the company blamed on “healthcare reforms including price reductions.” According to the Financial Times, drug companies are pinning their hopes on draft regulations that could dramatically speed up the approval process for new medicines, which now can take up to five years longer in China than in Europe and the US.
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