Hainan pilot zone sees big increases of medical imports
China Daily

A view of the Boao Lecheng International Medical Tourism Pilot Zone. (Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn)

Preferential policies and institutional innovation have boosted imports of licensed drugs and medical devices in Hainan province and are turning the Boao Lecheng International Medical Tourism Pilot Zone into a key channel by which innovative medical products are introduced to China, local authorities said.

The import value of licensed drugs and equipment in the zone's bonded warehouses exceeded 85 million yuan ($13.3 million) in the first two months of the year, an increase of 110 percent over the same period last year. The amount of imported licensed medical devices and equipment skyrocketed by 1,500 percent year-on-year, while imports of licensed drugs posted impressive growth of 76 percent.

The zone's annual import records for such licensed products stayed around 171 million yuan in 2020 and 271 million yuan in 2021.

Situated on the eastern coast of Hainan Island, the pilot zone was established to promote the introduction of international medical tourism-related businesses and services, such as licensed medical treatment, cancer prevention and treatment, healthcare management, rehabilitation and anti-aging medicine.

It benefits from preferential policies that allow the importation of drugs, medical devices an technologies that are not yet approved by the top medical authority in China. Around 20 institutions currently operate in the pilot zone, which has developed close relations with all leading global pharmaceutical enterprises, according to administrators.

"To date, the pilot zone has introduced over 200 innovative drugs and medical devices from overseas, providing timely help to Chinese patients. Apart from pharmaceutical manufacturers with innovative drugs for conventional patients, overseas producers of more than 100 popular brands of medical aesthetic products have applied for entry into the zone, seeing the huge demand for beauty products in the China market,'' said Lyu Hui, an official with the pilot zone administration.

Before the COVID-19 outbreak, about 600,000 Chinese went abroad annually to see a doctor. Of those, 20 percent were seeking medical aesthetics services.

Hainan is making solid efforts to integrate medical consumption with tourism, with the healthcare sector designed as a priority industry in the Hainan Free Trade Port, according to the provincial government.

A master plan released in 2020 by the central government envisions turning all of Hainan Island, which is about 32 times the size of Hong Kong, into a globally influential high-level free trade port by the middle of this century.