China’s elite are hoarding supplies of Pfizer’s Covid-19 antiviral drug, Paxlovid, and as an unprecedented wave of Covid sweeps the country, hospitals are starved of resources and ordinary people are handing over to business partners as they struggle to access the drugs.
A number of public and private hospitals told the Financial Times that the drug, which is widely available in the west, is either out of stock or only available to patients with serious medical conditions. Paxlovid is generally prescribed to treat mild to moderate cases of Covid.
Officials and business owners have stockpiled large stocks of the pills at exorbitant prices to protect elderly relatives, family or friends, doctors said. Analysts say the turmoil has fueled growing demand for Pakhlovid, making it the epitome of the country’s health disparities.
“Access to paxlovid should not be determined by people’s power or wealth,” says Jin Dongyan, a virologist at the University of Hong Kong. “This is a life-saving drug and should be made available to everyone who needs it.”
China is battling its worst coronavirus outbreak since then suddenly abandoned his strategy strict lockdowns, quarantines and mass testing. Chinese officials estimated that 250 million people were infected within 20 days as the virus spread across the largest population areas, including Beijing, Shanghai and the southern province of Guangdong.
But authorities have been slow to make Paxlovid, the only foreign Covid drug approved for use in China, available to citizens. Beijing You have not confirmed the year foreign Covid vaccines using advanced messenger RNA technology are forcing their population to rely on less effective local jabs.
demon Shanghai imported its first batch of 21,200 boxes of Paklovid in March as it grappled with a major outbreak. Supplies have remained minimal, with only a few hundred thousand boxes imported into the country, according to a Beijing-based government adviser who said officials feared putting Pakhlovid’s domestic rivals at a disadvantage.
“We don’t want to rely on another country for anti-Covid drugs,” the adviser said. “We need to create a market space for domestically produced drugs.”
Beijing has been in recent months Lianhua strongly encouraged QingwenA traditional herbal remedy that includes honeysuckle, licorice and weeping forsythia, and Azvudine, a local antiviral, is an effective treatment despite a lack of clinical data.
Beijing announced on Monday that the city’s state-run community clinics will receive limited quantities of Paklovid for elderly patients. The move suggested the drug could become more available in larger cities in the coming weeks.
But many public hospitals in Beijing and Shanghai, where Paxlovid is covered by state-backed health insurance, said the pill would be reserved for patients with critical conditions.
“Our Paxlovide serves patients with end-stage cancer and kidney failure, and there are many of them,” said a doctor at the state-backed Beijing Union Medical College Hospital. “Less sick patients have nothing left.”
At some high-end private hospitals, Paxlovid is being sold to patients with deep pockets for 8,300 Rmb ($1,200) per box – compared to the $530 the US government agreed to pay for a five-dose course of the drug in April. An official at Oasis International Hospital in Beijing said it sold its inventory of 300 cases within 24 hours this month.
There is no timeline for the next shipment, the official added.
The rest of the country, especially the underserved rural areas, further reduces hopes of obtaining the drug given the low volume of imports. Recently to learn Co-sponsored by China’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it found that the country needs to provide antiviral drugs such as Paxlovide to the 160 million elderly people with underlying health conditions to effectively reduce Covid-related deaths. As high as 1mn.
Limited supply has made Pakhlovid a popular gift among China’s well-connected. An official at a dispensing hospital in Beijing said a “substantial” portion of the prescribed pills were taken by healthy people.
“It’s more desirable than Moutai,” he said a premium Chinese beverage brand it is one of China’s favorite business gifts.
A business owner in Beijing said he received two boxes of Paklovid this month as a gift from a friend who bought them from a hospital ward serving high-ranking officials.
But I decided not to keep it. “I will give it to someone else who needs medicine,” he said.
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