A senior Chinese official says the country's plan to provide essential medicines will work to reduce drug prices and improve access to essential health care for all Chinese.

The system includes a list of essential medicines that will be produced and distributed under government control and supervision.

Prices will also be set by the government.

Guo Jianying is an official with the drug pricing section of the National Development and Reform Commission.

"Before pricing essential medicines, we will look into their cost and current prices. We will ensure that enterprises can achieve reasonable benefits while controlling their expenses for management and distribution. Then drug prices could be reduced."

China plans to set up the system in three years.

The list of drugs will be issued later this year.

Sources with the Ministry of Health say the list could name 300 to 400 drugs recommended by the World Health Organization.

According to WHO, essential medicines are those that can cure common disease and are affordable for average people.

The plan says essential drugs should be used at all grassroots public health facilities from this year.

They should also be available at all retail drugstores and medical institutions.

In China, drugs are also sold at hospitals.

The plan also says safety regulators should regularly inspect drugs on the list and make the results public.