(Yicai Global) Jan. 6 -- US biomedical giant Pfizer's orally-taken Covid-19 medicine Paxlovid is a candidate in the latest round of the Chinese government’s centralized drug procurement program, which guarantees distribution through the country’s vast medical insurance program for successful bidders.
Paxlovid is one of 343 medicines taking part in the bidding, which kicked off in Beijing yesterday, Yicai Global has learned. This round includes 145 existing drugs and 198 new ones. Paxlovid is one of the newcomers, along with some expensive oncology and rare disease treatments. It was not among the drugs negotiated yesterday and the schedule for the coming days is not clear.
By making public the procurement needs of hospitals, the National Healthcare Security Administration allows market players to bid for access by offering their lowest prices. The scheme aims to slash the cost of often prohibitively priced generic and patented medicines through economy-of-scale buying. Prices were trimmed by an average of between 50 percent and 60 percent from their normal retail price between 2018 and 2021.
However, there are concerns as to how much the healthcare watchdog will be able to bring down the price of Paxlovid, which is in high demand by hospitals amid a flare-up of Covid-19 sparked by a recent relaxation in the country’s pandemic prevention policies.
The tablet, which was approved for import into China on Feb. 11 last year, has been selling for CNY2,300 (USD334) per box, a hefty fee for an ordinary citizen. Some local governments have included it in the temporary payment section of their health insurance scheme, but it still costs CNY1,890 a box.
There are only two other Covid-19 pills, namely Genuine Biotech's Azvudine and US pharma giant Merck Sharp & Dohme's Molnupiravir, that are on the market in China, and these were only greenlit recently so are not part of this round of bidding.
To date, Paxlovid is still being imported and none is being produced locally, China Meheco Group, exclusive China distributor for Paxlovid, told Yicai Global.
Efforts are being made to produce Paxlovid locally, said Hua Hai Pharmaceutical, Pfizer’s Chinese manufacturing partner.
Editors: Tang Shihua, Kim Taylor