China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) has announced plans to curb the prices of essential drugs produced by foreign-capitalised firms.

Such products have in the past been excluded from China’s regular rounds of price reductions, and their makers have had independent pricing powers since 2000 as a way of encouraging R&D, but they will be the first batch of products to be targeted in the next price-cutting round, according to the Chinese newspaper 21st Century Business Herald.

These medicines are often vastly more expensive than domestically-priced counterparts; a survey of nine products conducted by the China Pharmaceutical Industry Research and Development Association recently found that prices of the versions made by foreign-capitalised firms were, on average, 1,311% higher than their domestic equivalents.

NRDC officials said late last week that the Commission will be making “persistent efforts to bring down the prices of some relatively expensive drugs.” They added that the price cuts will be introduced in a step-wise fashion, and that they will be holding discussions with the pharmaceutical companies involved. These firms are expected to be hit hard by the new curbs, says the newspaper, which comments that the policy “can be seen as an end of the super-national treatment afforded to foreign companies.”

Meantime, the China Pharmaceutical Industry Research and Development Association (SINO-PhIRDA)  and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA)  have this month signed a cooperation framework in Washington DC. They say that the deal embodies their intent to “continue a regular dialogue that will facilitate the two organizations working together.”

“Everyone is impressed by the dedication and commitment of Chinese biopharmaceutical research companies to create new and better medicines for the global market. At PhRMA we all look forward to the time when we, hopefully, will count many of the companies here today as PhRMA member companies,” said PhRMA chief executive John Castellani.

“The better ties between our two countries, along with better ties between PhRMA member companies and SINO-PhIRDA and the Chinese biopharmaceutical research industry will help us better address the scientific, medical, regulatory and other challenges we face and help us, together, make better medicines available to the world’s patients who need and who hope for new cures and treatments,” he added.