BEIJING (Reuters) – As China begins dismantling its tough zero-COVID controls, there is strong anecdotal evidence that cases in cities such as Beijing and Chengdu are spiking, boosting demand not only for flu and fever medication but also COVID-specific treatments.
Here are some of the treatments available in China:
China approved in February the antiviral COVID-19 pill developed by Pfizer. The drug has been largely available via hospitals to treat high-risk patients in several provinces.
But a Chinese online healthcare platform started selling the medication for 2,980 yuan ($426.80) per box for those submitting a positive COVID-19 test result, a sales page on the app showed on Tuesday.
The listing disappeared after about half an hour, and a customer service officer for the platform said that was due to the product selling out. It remains unavailable on the platform.
The drug, developed by Chinese drugmaker Genuine Biotech, was approved by China’s health regulator to be used to treat COVID-19 in July, becoming the first domestically developed oral antiviral medicine for the infection.
It is approved for the treatment of adult patients with “normal” COVID-19, not patients in severe condition. It costs 270 yuan for 35 tablets, cheaper than Pfizer’s Paxlovid.
It was first developed for the treatment of Hepatitis C and researched later as AIDS therapy. It was granted domestic approval in July 2021 to treat certain HIV-1 virus infections.
Henan province-based Genuine Biotech said in July this year that in a late-stage clinical trial 40.4% of patients taking the medication showed improvement in symptoms seven days after first taking the drug, compared with 10.9% in the control group.
The tablets became available online on the platform of a Shenzhen-based drug store briefly in November but were pulled a day later. Genuine Biotech said in a statement the company required the store to stop selling the pills online according to the country’s pandemic prevention regulations.
Fosun Pharma, part of Chinese conglomerate Fosun Group, has exclusive rights to commercialize Genuine’s COVID treatment in China.
On Tuesday, a Fosun Pharma representative said the company was working with a number of internet medical platforms to meet demand from COVID-19 patients recuperating at home.
AstraZeneca Plc’s antibody cocktail Evusheld for COVID-19 prevention was earlier this year cleared for use in a medical tourism zone in China’s southern province of Hainan, through local preferential policies that allow the zone to accelerate drug use ahead of national approval.
China’s WuXi Biologics is partnering with AstraZeneca to produce Evusheld, or tixagevimab/cilgavimab, to supply China and other countries.
The antibody-based treatment was approved by China’s medical products regulator in December last year to treat adults and teenagers with mild and normal cases of COVID-19 that show a high risk for progression to severe disease. It is administered to patients through infusion.
The therapy, developed by Brii Biosciences, China’s Tsinghua University and a Shenzhen-based hospital and manufactured by WuXi Biologics, requires a doctor’s prescription and must be administered by healthcare professionals.
(Reporting by Sophie Yu, Roxanne Liu, Brenda Goh and Miyoung Kim; Editing by Tom Hogue)
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