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Margaret Chan, former director-general of the World Health Organization, appreciated the benefits of generic medicine, but stressed the need for the Chinese government and pharmaceutical companies to invest more in researching and developing new drugs.
Chan, who also serves on the advisory council of the Boao Forum for Asia, made the remark on Thursday after watching the box office hit Dying to Survive recently.
Dying to Survive, a Chinese film about a man smuggling cheap versions of leukemia medications from India for resale to patients in China, led to heated public discussions on drug prices and pushed the government to call for more affordable medicines.
"Inexpensive generic drugs from India play an important role in helping patients in poorer countries, but China should not completely copy India"s model because the country is capable of creating new, original drugs," she said.
She called on the government to roll out more regulations to protect the intellectual property of research-based drug manufacturers to foster innovation.
"Based on my work experience at the WHO, we must protect intellectual property as an incentive to encourage their research into new, better drugs," Chan said.
She said that patent protection could be a driver for price increases, but better health insurance policies and more awareness of corporate social responsibility can help ease the pressure of those who can"t afford.
At the State Council"s executive meeting held on Wednesday, the central government decided to expand direct settlement of trans-provincial medical expenses. The new measure primarily benefits migrant workers, non-local workers and entrepreneurs.
"I am glad to see the establishment of good policies like these, and the next step is to ensure stronger enforcement," said Chan.