Due to the rapid increase of COVID-19 infection cases in China, the demand for Pfizer’s pill Paxlovid has also greatly increased. Many hospitals have said that the inventory of Paxlovid is tight. As the drug is being hyped by drug scalpers, the price of Paxlovid on third-party channels has climbed to tens of thousands of yuan, which is nearly six times more expensive than the normal price of 2,000 yuan ($287).
According to a report by STAR Market Daily, this situation is occurring due to several reasons, namely adjustments to pandemic prevention policies in December, the number of people infected with COVID-19 in China has risen rapidly, and many with severe diseases are in urgent need of this drug for treatment. As a result, some have tried to buy some pills just in case through informal channels. Some have even bought Paxlovid as a gift for others.
Paxlovid is an oral antiviral drug to treat COVID-19 developed by Pfizer and was approved by the US FDA on December 22, 2021. In February this year, Chinese authorities conducted an emergency review and approval according to special drug approval procedures, and subsequently gave conditional approval for the import registration of Paxlovid.
As for the supply, according to Pfizer’s disclosure in early June this year, the planned production capacity of Paxlovid in 2022 is 120 million boxes. It is reported that China Medicine, which is responsible for the import and distribution of Paxlovid in the Chinese market, has received 100,000 boxes. In addition, a report by CCTV News shows that at the beginning of March this year, the first batch of Paxlovid imported into China was 21,200 boxes, which pales compared to the soaring number of COVID-19 infections in China.
Recently, it was reported that Beijing plans to distribute Paxlovid in community hospitals. After training, community doctors will instruct COVID-19 infected patients to take the antiviral treatment. However, one staff member of a local community health service center in Beijing told Chinese media outlet The Paper that a small amount of Paxlovid was indeed sent to the center, but the drug had quickly sold out. “[Whether there will be Paxlovid in the future] depends on the distribution of the government, and it is sold out now.”
On Chinese social media platforms, many users posted that they had successfully purchased Paxlovid through some Internet e-commerce platforms. A few days ago, JD Health launched the purchase of Paxlovid as doctors could provide patients with online consultations and then issue a prescription through the JD Health platform for those with positive nucleic acid or antigen results. The price of a single box of the pills is 2640 yuan. However, the platform is no longer selling the drug. According to some e-commerce platforms, the online sales of Paxlovid still needs approval from the authorities.
Regarding production capacity, Pfizer responded to The Paper on December 29: “The company has been committed to cooperating with the government and other relevant partners to actively improve the accessibility of innovative drugs to continuously meet the clinical needs of Chinese patients.”