China said it would reduce the penalties for the sale and import of unapproved drugs, effectively giving poor and critically ill patients the green light to get cheaper generic pharmaceuticals from other countries.
The move, announced on Monday, could help fill a gaping hole in the country’s overburdened health care system. For years, Chinese patients and their relatives risked the threat of heavy criminal penalties in their hunt for affordable drugs in a country increasingly suffering from chronic diseases like cancer.
In the most desperate of cases, relatives of these patients have resorted to making their own cancer drugs at home using raw pharmaceutical ingredients that they have found online.
The effectiveness of the new move could depend on the details. The Chinese government said the changes to the current law will take effect on Dec. 1 but did not specify how penalties would be reduced…