Albert Bourla, the CEO of US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, said that the company is working with Chinese partners to provide Paxlovid, a COVID-19 pill developed by the firm, to China from the first half of this year, Bloomberg reported on January 10.
“The partner has not yet started production, but will start soon,” Bourla said in an interview at the J.P Morgan Healthcare Conference. He did not disclose the name of the company. He also denied a Reuters report last week claiming that some companies were working to produce and sell a generic version of Paxlovid in China.
According to the official website of China’s Medical Products Administration, Paxlovid was approved to be sold in China in February last year, becoming the country’s first approved oral medicine used to treat COVID-19. On December 14, last year, Pfizer announced that it had signed an agreement with China Meheco Group, which will be responsible for the import and distribution of Paxlovid in China.
In August of 2022, Huahai Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. signed an agreement with Pfizer, allowing it to provide entrusted production services for Paxlovid in China for five years.
On January 9, Huahai Pharmaceutical told local media outlet The Paper that the company is cooperating with Pfizer to accelerate localized production of Paxlovid, so as to ensure the sufficient supply in the Chinese market and meet the COVID-19 treatment needs of Chinese patients. When asked when it expected to start localized production, the company said, “It is recommended to consult Pfizer on this issue.”
Pfizer responded on January 11 that although Paxlovid was not included in China’s medical insurance system, the company would, as always, cooperate with the government and other partners to ensure an adequate supply of the drug in the Chinese market. At present, the company and Huahai Pharmaceutical are actively promoting the localization of Paxlovid.
Since the end of China’s strict zero-COVID policy at the end of last year, demand for therapeutic drugs used to treat the virus, including Paxlovid, has surged. Paxlovid has arrived at community hospitals in some cities for 1,890 yuan per box of 30 capsules.
Talks between Chinese regulators and Pfizer regarding the potential inclusion of Paxlovid in the country’s public health insurance scheme have broken down. News immediately emerged that Pfizer offered a price of 600 yuan, which is still far from the bottom line of China’s healthcare administration. However, on the afternoon of January 9, Caixin reported that an authoritative source revealed that “600 yuan is absolutely false, and Pfizer insisted on the price of 1,890 yuan.”