This week, China has fast-tracked approval for 48 “much-needed medicines.” Regulators gave special consideration to new treatments for rare diseases as well as drugs that target serious, life-threatening illnesses, like cancer. Authorities were made to sit up and listen following the box office success of a low budget film called “Dying to Survive”, which explored how hard life was for people living with cancer.

Chinese Oncology specialists are struggling against the rising rates of the disease and patients are unable to easily access the costly medicine.

Among the urgently needed drugs on the list developed by China’s Center for Drug Evaluation CDE, are some of the biggest names in pharma including; Pfizer, Novartis, Takeda and Gilead.

China is the world’s second-biggest exporter of pharmaceuticals behind the U.S generating $123 billion last year. Despite this, rocketing prices, supply shortages and several high-profile scandals have led to widespread dissatisfaction and mistrust among China’s residents.

25% of the list calls for a number of required cancer medications, including Roche Chungai’s ALK inhibitor alectinib hydrochloride (Alecensa) and Merck’s PD-1 star pembrolizumab (Keytruda).

This upholds the countries promise to provide more affordable and accessible cancer drugs following the social media storm started by Dying to Survive. The blockbuster movie tells the tale of Lu Yong, who smuggled cheap versions of leukaemia medication from India to sell to Chinese patients unable to afford the big brand version.

After multiple reforms including a decision to accept overseas clinical data in NDAs, China is making great efforts to speed up the approval process for foreign drugs.