• Thu. Sep 28th, 2023

People in China are turning to the illicit market for tablets because to an increase in Covid incidents

ByJosh Taylor

Dec 22, 2022

As Covid-19 infections spread across China, a dearth of antiviral medications like as Pfizer Inc.’s Paxlovid appears to be driving patients to the illegal market.
The country’s hasty decision to reopen Covid Zero earlier this month stunned health experts and locals, since officials appear to have done little preparing for the inevitable increase in cases that comes with reopening. This involves having simple access to antiviral medicines for patients who test positive and are at increased risk of hospitalisation, such as the elderly.
The escalating outbreak is raising demand for such treatments, but the pharmaceuticals are in low supply across China’s severely stressed health-care system. People are looking for online sales methods to obtain generic versions of pharmaceuticals manufactured overseas but not permitted for sale in China, according to social media posts and press reports.
On Sunday, a user on the popular Twitter-like Weibo site stated she was buying generic Paxlovid produced in Bangladesh since she had an elderly relative who couldn’t find any in China. She stated in the now-deleted post that while she had heard China had imported tens of thousands of cartons of Paxlovid, regular folks were unable to obtain the possibly life-saving medication.
On the same day, another Weibo user requested simpler and faster access to the medicines. The poster posted a screenshot of an advertising for generic Paxlovid produced in India, which may be dispatched the same day as payment and arrive in two to three weeks.
Those who can obtain antivirals must pay exorbitant prices. According to the 21st Century Business Herald, an anonymous white-collar worker in Guangdong paid a Hong Kong agent 5,800 yuan ($830) for a box of Paxlovid, more than double the official price in mainland China. Since the government’s first tentative steps toward easing Covid Zero in November, purchasing agents have sold more than 50,000 boxes of foreign generic antivirals, according to The Paper, a Shanghai-based publication.
Even following the rules might be costly, depending on where someone receives treatment. According to Guangzhou Daily, a staff member at the private Guangzhou United Family Hospital stated Paxlovid costs around 2,300 yuan, but patients must undergo a battery of tests to assess their appropriateness for the prescription. According to the study, this includes a CT scan for approximately 5,000 yuan, a consultation for about 1,000 yuan, and a few hundred yuan for a check of their liver and kidney function. Still, most Chinese resort to public hospitals, where treatment and diagnostics, including Paxlovid, are usually covered by state medical insurance.
Hu Xijin, the retired editor-in-chief of the state-backed tabloid the Global Times and a vociferous pro-government critic, joined the chorus of Chinese unhappiness at the high pricing.
According to Siddharth Sridhar, clinical assistant professor in the department of microbiology at the University of Hong Kong, it’s uncertain if China is equipped to meet the massive demand. “Even if there is enough Paxlovid for China’s enormous population, establishing a distribution system to send these tablets to patients in a timely manner is not something that can be done quickly,” he added.

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