On Apr. 11, 2023, China National Joint Drug Procurement Office announced the bidding result of the 8th national volume-based procurement (VBP), a bulk-purchase program launched in 2018 intended for cutting the costs of medicines prescribed in public hospitals.
1. Five Foreign Products Entered the 8th VBP
The 8th VBP covers 39 drugs (number based on generic name) with an average price cut of 56%, estimated to save 16.7 billion yuan (circa 2.41 billion USD) each year until the end of 2025 based on the planned procurement volumes.1
Among 366 specific products (number based on generic name, specification, and manufacturer) from 251 companies that participated in the bidding, 252 products from 174 bidders won their places in the VBP program. Five bid-winning products are foreign while the other 247 products are domestic.
China’s 8th Medical VBP: Five Bid-winning Products2 Owned by Foreign Companies
Oseltamivir Phosphate for Suspension
Hetero Labs Limited
Aurobindo Pharma Limited
N.V. Organon (Organon Pharma (UK) Limited) (re-packaged by MSD Hangzhou)
Cefodizime Sodium for Injection
DAEWOONG BIO INC.
Source: Sunshine Medical Procurement All-In-One
The 252 bid-winning products cover various therapeutic areas, such as anti-bacteria, cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases, anti-allergy, mental disorders, and chronic diseases.
Price cuts were pretty sharp for some products.
The prices of seven bid-winning products of Oseltamivir Phosphate for Suspension, a therapeutic drug for Influenza A, were lowered by 83% on average.
Four products of high blood pressure drug Amlodipine Besilate and Atorvastatin Calcium Tablets experienced an average price cut of 48%.
Five products of Atosiban Acetate Injection for delaying preterm birth were priced at 240 yuan/injection on average, with an average price reduction rate of 80%.
2. What’s New About the 8th VBP
Since 2018, China has organized eight national VBPs, which covers 333 drugs in total, whose average price cuts were over 50%. VBP, as well as its most gripping feature—price cuts, seems to be nothing new for the industry. However, the 8th VBP manifests fairly new key points that China stresses.
China’s Medical VBPs
Bidding Result Released
Procurement Started or Planned to be Started
Pilot in 4+7 cities
Pilot nationwide (1st)
6th (exclusive for insulins)
In the first three months of 2022
Source: Sunshine Medical Procurement All-In-One
2.1 Price not foremost, quality matters
Though price cuts are eye-catching once the bidding results were rolled out, China seems not to want to squash all the profit room for pharmaceutical companies. The paramount thing for VBP is to make sure drugs, stripped away from deals in the grey area, are delivered to public hospitals with sufficient quantity and good quality.
To ensure drug quality, China has delisted some previous bid-winning enterprises from the VBP supplier list. For example, on Oct. 31, 2022, China’s national procurement office announced that GlaxoSmithKline (Ireland) Limited, a bid winner in the 5th VBP, was suspended from supplying dutasteride. The company was found with failure to comply with GMP regulations in an inspection. What’s more, the company was moved into a black list that bans it to bid for VBP for one and half a year, i.e., from the day of announcement to Apr. 29, 2024.
Quality assurance is not exactly a new topic, but China drug regulators certainly will continue pay no less attention to quality. It’s impossible for China to compromise quality for low prices.
2.2 Ensuring stable supply
It’s noteworthy that the national procurement office arranges back-up supplier companies for each product in the 8th VBP to ensure stable supply. Though the procurement office asks bidders to submit information about their production capacities, which means the production capacities are evaluated, situations may still happen that prevent the companies to successfully deliver their products. That’s when the back-up suppliers come in. In the future VBP biddings, reliable and stable production capacity are also expected to stand out as a significant edge.
3. Should Companies Strive for VBP?
As winning the bid for VBP means substantial sales volumes, should pharmaceutical companies compete for the bid? There is no fixed answer for the question.
For one thing, not all products are eligible for bidding for VBP. Generally, only companies with approved original drugs, reference listed drugs (RLDs), or generic drugs that have passed the equivalence evaluation can apply for the bidding. Besides, the product has to be on the drug list3 issued by China’s procurement office prior to VBP bidding.
For another, companies are different in market share, production capacity, and supply chain stability. Unpredicted situations, e.g., lockdown due to an epidemic outbreak, can also impact companies’ manufacturing and shipping capabilities to meet the supply requirements in VBP.
Hence, it’s really each company’s own decision to make on whether to bid for VBP. But BaiPharm can offer advice customized to our clients. Contact BaiPharm if you’d like to know more about drug regulatory affairs in China.