China has added 56 medicines to its state bidding programme aimed at procuring key treatments at big discounts in return for offering large volume state contracts, a state agency said. The procurement authorities released the list of drugs open to the upcoming round of bidding late on Wednesday. It includes some products that contributed more than US$1 billion each to foreign drug makers’ sales in 2019 but face challenges from generic versions offered by local manufacturers. They include AstraZeneca’s heart disease treatment Brilinta, blood thinner Eliquis, jointly developed by Pfizer and Bristol Myers Squibb, and Novartis AG’s diabetes drug Galvus. Beijing has pledged to lower consumer costs of off-patent drugs by pushing forward a national scheme where drug makers have to go through a bidding process and cut prices low enough to elbow out competitors to be eligible to sell their products at public hospitals in bulk. The scheme helped China achieve price cuts of 50 per cent on average from drug makers at home and abroad in its previous bidding held in January. China plans to close pharmaceutical price gap with bulk-buying power While competition for older brands intensifies, Novartis said in last week that new drug launches were expected to be a main driver of its growth in China. “We will continue to support the Chinese government’s policies by introducing innovative medicines and therefore improving accessibility to benefit more patients,” a representative said. For most products on the list, if only one company wins the supply contract, it can achieve up to half the total procurement volume in the first year, according to the plan. If a product has at least four bid winners, 80 per cent of the volume can be shared. Information about drug companies’ applications to participate in the upcoming bidding will be released on August 20 in Shanghai.