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(Bloomberg) -- Swiss drugmaker Novartis AG expects growth in China’s drug market to accelerate as health authorities in the nation expedite approvals for new medicines and increase reimbursement.

The Chinese pharmaceutical market may exceed $300 billion in sales by 2020, Chief Executive Officer Joe Jimenez said in an interview in Geneva on Tuesday. The country is now the world’s second-biggest pharmaceutical market, behind the U.S.

“They have a population that really wants to be part of getting access to healthcare,” he said. “They’re starting to bring down those barriers.”

While foreign companies have historically had to wait several years to bring treatments already approved in other countries into China, the country is speeding up its approvals of new medicines to combat increasing rates of diseases like cancer and hepatitis.

An “innovative” pharmaceutical industry also is starting to emerge in China with scientists returning to the country from the U.S. and new biotech companies starting up, though it will take time, Jimenez said.

To contact the reporter on this story: James Paton in London at jpaton4@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chitra Somayaji at csomayaji@bloomberg.net, Marthe Fourcade

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

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