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Boao Lecheng zone boosts medical tourism in Hainan

By LIU ZHIHUA and MA ZHIPING in Boao, Hainan | China Daily | Updated: 2021-06-16


A visitor checks out medical equipment using a virtual reality headset at a center in Boao Lecheng International Medical Tourism Pilot Zone in Qionghai, Hainan province, in April. [Photo by Yuan Chen/For China Daily]

Area strengthens nation's opening-up, dual-circulation development pattern

Boao Lecheng International Medical Tourism Pilot Zone in Qionghai, Hainan province, will strengthen China's higher-level opening-up and dual-circulation development pattern, according to one of its senior officials.

Established with the approval of the State Council in 2013 and granted certain preferential policies, the pilot zone is located in Boao town of Hainan Free Trade Port. It aims at providing high-quality medical tourism-related services to visitors from home and abroad.

Among its planned offerings are cutting-edge medical products and solutions, including specially licensed medical treatments, cancer prevention and care, health management services, rehabilitation, aesthetic medicine and anti-aging treatment.

"As China's first and only international medical tourism pilot zone, the Lecheng pilot zone has enjoyed many exclusive favorable policies," said Liu Zhefeng, deputy director of the pilot zone administration.

"With support from the central and local authorities, we have made a lot of breakthroughs in institutional innovations, which help improve management and development of the pilot zone, thus contributing to its further opening-up and pilot trials."

The zone, also known as Boao Hope City, has come to be regarded as a major success for the Hainan FTP. It is one of the 11 key industrial parks designed to grow tourism, modern services and advanced technologies in Hainan FTP, Liu said.

In addition to preferential policies such as zero tariffs, low tax rates and simplified tax procedures-which are benefits of locating in the Hainan FTP-Boao Lecheng pilot zone is also allowed to introduce new and innovative medicines, medical devices and technologies that have not yet been approved in the Chinese mainland but approved overseas. In special cases, patients are even allowed to bring medicines out of the area.

So far, dozens of world-leading pharmaceutical companies have established wide-ranging cooperation with the pilot zone, and about 140 types of medical devices and 100 medicines yet to be approved in the Chinese mainland for cancer and rare disease treatment have been introduced in the region.

Liu Yan, vice-president of Chinese biotech enterprise BeiGene Ltd, said that special policy measures for the pilot zone have created very supportive conditions for globally innovative medicines and medical devices to speed up their launch in the China market.

In January 2020, the company inked an agreement with United Kingdom-based EUSA Pharma for development and commercialization of the latter's orphan biologic products siltuximab and dinutuximab beta in China.

The drugs have been approved in other regions for treatment of idiopathic multicentric Castleman's disease and certain types of neuroblastoma, respectively.

In November, dinutuximab beta was used to treat a young neuroblastoma patient from Hainan province.

To date, treatment with dinutuximab beta has been provided to around 20 juvenile neuroblastoma patients.

"Thanks to the policy innovations in Lecheng, cutting-edge treatments become available for patients with green-track approvals, which also encourage biotech and pharmaceutical companies to innovate and foray into the China market," Liu of BeiGene said.

In April, the central authorities announced setting up of an e-prescription center in Lecheng, the first of its kind in China.

The center will provide third-party information services for prescription drug sales agencies, and get connected with internet-based hospitals, prescription systems of Hainan medical facilities, various prescription medicine sales platforms, health insurance information platforms, payment and settlement institutions and commercial insurance institutions.

All prescription drugs, except for drugs specifically regulated under the national drug administration law, can be sold through the e-prescription center on the internet without any other authorizations required, according to a guideline jointly released by the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Commerce.

"Lecheng is becoming increasingly attractive to medical tourists not only from China but also from Southeast Asia and Belt and Road Initiative-related countries and regions," Liu said, referring to the impact of the new policy.

Another major innovation in the zone is a trailblazing drug insurance program launched last year, which covers foreign medicines yet to be approved domestically, with an annual premium of 29 yuan ($4.53) for Hainan islanders, and 39 yuan for residents in other Chinese regions.

The insurance covers up to 1 million yuan in drug costs for all those eligible, and will extend to medical devices soon, Liu said.