Vice-Premier Wu Yi apologized to lawmakers yesterday for failing to check
soaring medical expenses.
"People are dissatisfied, and I feel guilty for that. I should apologize to
you," Wu said at a panel discussion with lawmakers on the sidelines of the Fifth
Session of the 10th National People's Congress (NPC).
Wu, who successfully steered China's negotiations with the World Trade
Organization, is the only female vice-premier in the cabinet. Her jurisdiction
includes health and medical services.
Rising medical costs have become a major concern in China. And a series of
accidents caused by substandard food and
medicine added to people's woes.
"Food and drug safety are a matter of people's health and security," Wu said.
Statistics show that nearly 70 percent of China's food producers are small
factories or workshops. More than 85 percent of China's drug manufacturers are
small companies with annual sales revenue of less than 100 million yuan ($12.9
Wu promised that the government would more closely supervise small workshops,
food stores, stalls and eateries, the likeliest sources of food poisoning.
The government will also monitor food and drug makers and distributors more
closely, Wu said.
She also promised to address problems in the medicine sector and said the
country's drug watchdog would improve the administrative system for drug
research and production.
'Basic medicine system'
Health Minister Gao Qiang said yesterday that China had pinned its hopes on a
"basic medicine system" to tackle complaints about limited public access to
"High drug prices are a major reason for high medical expenses. The key to
this problem is to set up a basic medicine system," Gao told reporters on the
sidelines of the ongoing parliamentary session.
The system, which would include a catalogue of necessary drugs that would be
produced and distributed under government control and supervision, could help
ensure access to a range of basic medicines and prevent manufacturers and
business people from circumventing existing price controls, Gao said.