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Friday, May 14, 2021

Shenzhen to benefit from SAR's medication links

A dozen overseas imported drugs used in the SAR but not in Shenzhen will be available in the next-door city under a "Hong Kong drug connection" scheme to start soon.
The University of Hong Kong-Shenzhen Hospital is expected to be the first location where the drugs - for treating cancer, rare diseases and respiratory illnesses - will be available, though not before June.

Hospital chief executive Lo Chung-mau told mainland media that not only will the program cover drugs but also medical equipment.

But he said even though mainland health authorities, including the National Medical Products Administration, will approve Shenzhen having Hong Kong-registered medication, the program could face difficulties in the early stages.

Lo said there will have to be special arrangements for securing the drugs and obtaining export documents from authorities in the United States, the source of many drugs.

"Maybe we'll need an agent to be in charge of procurement from Hong Kong and other parts of the world," he said.

Lo said the hospital has made a list for the first batch of 54 types of drugs and equipment to be included in the program, with priorities given to medications that do not have alternatives in the mainland or which are much superior to the existing ones used there.

The hospital will assign seasoned doctors to monitor the use of the medications and equipment, he added.

The list has now gone to the NMPA for approval.

At the same time, the hospital is working on having in place a chain of operations that will cover procurement, pricing, logistics, clearances, taxation, applications and monitoring of adverse effects.

"Those on the list would be [drugs and equipment] that have already been approved in Europe and the United States and are being used in Hong Kong public hospitals but have yet to be approved on the mainland," he said.

The scheme was highly significant, Lo said, as the drugs are crucial for some treatments.

"It would be risky if a patient had to go to Hong Kong themselves just to buy the medication," he said.

But there would not be any bar on who could be administered with the drugs as long as they are deemed clinically necessary.

Lo pointed out too that the medications could be more expensive in Shenzhen than in the SAR, but he said Hongkongers living in the mainland who have health-care vouchers would be able to use them in the program.

"Suppliers may also lower prices considering future market needs," he said.
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