Pfizer’s Paxlovid not included in China’s national insurance

Jan 8, 2023, 10:52 AM | Updated: Jan 9, 2023, 7:31 pm
In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, a doctor prescribes small-molecule COVID-19 drugs for...

In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, a doctor prescribes small-molecule COVID-19 drugs for an elderly patient at a community health service center in Shanghai, China, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. China's health care authorities declined to include Pfizer's COVID-19 treatment drug in a national reimbursement list that would have allowed patients to get it at a cheaper price throughout the country, saying it was too expensive. (Wang Xiang/Xinhua via AP)

(Wang Xiang/Xinhua via AP)

              In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, a doctor prescribes small-molecule COVID-19 drugs for an elderly patient at a community health service center in Shanghai, China, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. China's health care authorities declined to include Pfizer's COVID-19 treatment drug in a national reimbursement list that would have allowed patients to get it at a cheaper price throughout the country, saying it was too expensive. (Wang Xiang/Xinhua via AP)
            
              In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, Wang Liyun, right, head of medical department and a staff member from nursing facility checks on the distribution list for small-molecule COVID-19 drugs at a community health service center in Shanghai, China, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. China's health care authorities declined to include Pfizer's COVID-19 treatment drug in a national reimbursement list that would have allowed patients to get it at a cheaper price throughout the country, saying it was too expensive. (Wang Xiang/Xinhua via AP)
            
              Workers help travelers fill out an electronic declaration of their COVID-19 health status in the international arrivals area at Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing, Monday, Jan. 9, 2023. The first international travelers are arriving in China without the mandatory quarantine that had been imposed at the start of the pandemic three years ago after restrictions were lifted beginning on Sunday. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
            
              Travelers wearing face masks wait for their luggage in the international arrivals area at Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing, Monday, Jan. 9, 2023. The first international travelers are arriving in China without the mandatory quarantine that had been imposed at the start of the pandemic three years ago after restrictions were lifted beginning on Sunday. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
            
              Travelers wearing face masks wait for their luggage in the international arrivals area at Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing, Monday, Jan. 9, 2023. The first international travelers are arriving in China without the mandatory quarantine that had been imposed at the start of the pandemic three years ago after restrictions were lifted beginning on Sunday. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
            
              FILE - Doses of the anti-viral drug Paxlovid are displayed in New York on Aug. 1, 2022. China's health care authorities declined to include Pfizer's COVID-19 treatment drug in a national reimbursement list that would have allowed patients to get it at a cheaper price throughout the country, saying it was too expensive. (AP Photo/Stephanie Nano, File)
            
              In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, a pharmacist checks on a prescription at a community health service center in Shanghai, China, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. China's health care authorities declined to include Pfizer's COVID-19 treatment drug in a national reimbursement list that would have allowed patients to get it at a cheaper price throughout the country, saying it was too expensive. (Wang Xiang/Xinhua via AP)
            
              In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, a doctor prescribes small-molecule COVID-19 drugs for an elderly patient at a community health service center in Shanghai, China, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. China's health care authorities declined to include Pfizer's COVID-19 treatment drug in a national reimbursement list that would have allowed patients to get it at a cheaper price throughout the country, saying it was too expensive. (Wang Xiang/Xinhua via AP)
            
              In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, Wang Liyun, right, head of medical department and a staff member from nursing facility checks on the distribution list for small-molecule COVID-19 drugs at a community health service center in Shanghai, China, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. China's health care authorities declined to include Pfizer's COVID-19 treatment drug in a national reimbursement list that would have allowed patients to get it at a cheaper price throughout the country, saying it was too expensive. (Wang Xiang/Xinhua via AP)
            
              Workers help travelers fill out an electronic declaration of their COVID-19 health status in the international arrivals area at Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing, Monday, Jan. 9, 2023. The first international travelers are arriving in China without the mandatory quarantine that had been imposed at the start of the pandemic three years ago after restrictions were lifted beginning on Sunday. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
            
              Travelers wearing face masks wait for their luggage in the international arrivals area at Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing, Monday, Jan. 9, 2023. The first international travelers are arriving in China without the mandatory quarantine that had been imposed at the start of the pandemic three years ago after restrictions were lifted beginning on Sunday. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
            
              Travelers wearing face masks wait for their luggage in the international arrivals area at Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing, Monday, Jan. 9, 2023. The first international travelers are arriving in China without the mandatory quarantine that had been imposed at the start of the pandemic three years ago after restrictions were lifted beginning on Sunday. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
            
              FILE - Doses of the anti-viral drug Paxlovid are displayed in New York on Aug. 1, 2022. China's health care authorities declined to include Pfizer's COVID-19 treatment drug in a national reimbursement list that would have allowed patients to get it at a cheaper price throughout the country, saying it was too expensive. (AP Photo/Stephanie Nano, File)
            
              In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, a pharmacist checks on a prescription at a community health service center in Shanghai, China, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. China's health care authorities declined to include Pfizer's COVID-19 treatment drug in a national reimbursement list that would have allowed patients to get it at a cheaper price throughout the country, saying it was too expensive. (Wang Xiang/Xinhua via AP)
            
              In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, a doctor prescribes small-molecule COVID-19 drugs for an elderly patient at a community health service center in Shanghai, China, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. China's health care authorities declined to include Pfizer's COVID-19 treatment drug in a national reimbursement list that would have allowed patients to get it at a cheaper price throughout the country, saying it was too expensive. (Wang Xiang/Xinhua via AP)
            
              In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, Wang Liyun, right, head of medical department and a staff member from nursing facility checks on the distribution list for small-molecule COVID-19 drugs at a community health service center in Shanghai, China, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. China's health care authorities declined to include Pfizer's COVID-19 treatment drug in a national reimbursement list that would have allowed patients to get it at a cheaper price throughout the country, saying it was too expensive. (Wang Xiang/Xinhua via AP)
            
              FILE - Doses of the anti-viral drug Paxlovid are displayed in New York on Aug. 1, 2022. China's health care authorities declined to include Pfizer's COVID-19 treatment drug in a national reimbursement list that would have allowed patients to get it at a cheaper price throughout the country, saying it was too expensive. (AP Photo/Stephanie Nano, File)
            
              In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, a pharmacist checks on a prescription at a community health service center in Shanghai, China, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. China's health care authorities declined to include Pfizer's COVID-19 treatment drug in a national reimbursement list that would have allowed patients to get it at a cheaper price throughout the country, saying it was too expensive. (Wang Xiang/Xinhua via AP)
            
              In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, a doctor prescribes small-molecule COVID-19 drugs for an elderly patient at a community health service center in Shanghai, China, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. China's health care authorities declined to include Pfizer's COVID-19 treatment drug in a national reimbursement list that would have allowed patients to get it at a cheaper price throughout the country, saying it was too expensive. (Wang Xiang/Xinhua via AP)
            
              In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, Wang Liyun, right, head of medical department and a staff member from nursing facility checks on the distribution list for small-molecule COVID-19 drugs at a community health service center in Shanghai, China, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. China's health care authorities declined to include Pfizer's COVID-19 treatment drug in a national reimbursement list that would have allowed patients to get it at a cheaper price throughout the country, saying it was too expensive. (Wang Xiang/Xinhua via AP)
            
              In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, a pharmacist checks on a prescription at a community health service center in Shanghai, China, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. China's health care authorities declined to include Pfizer's COVID-19 treatment drug in a national reimbursement list that would have allowed patients to get it at a cheaper price throughout the country, saying it was too expensive. (Wang Xiang/Xinhua via AP)
            
              A security guard wearing a face mask and using a bike-sharing service carries his belonging rides across a street in Beijing, Monday, Jan. 9, 2023. China's healthcare authorities declined to include Pfizer's COVID-treatment drug in a national reimbursement list that would've allowed patients to get it at a cheaper price throughout the country, saying it was too expensive. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
            
              A nurse holds a drug talks to an elderly patient as patients with COVID symptoms receive intravenous drips at the emergency ward of a hospital in Fuyang in central China's Anhui province on Jan. 4, 2023. China's healthcare authorities declined to include Pfizer's COVID-treatment drug in a national reimbursement list that would have allowed patients to get it at a cheaper price throughout the country, saying it was too expensive. (Chinatopix Via AP)
            
              Family members look after their elderly relatives with COVID symptoms at the emergency ward of a hospital in Fuyang in central China's Anhui province on Jan. 4, 2023. China's healthcare authorities declined to include Pfizer's COVID-treatment drug in a national reimbursement list that would have allowed patients to get it at a cheaper price throughout the country, saying it was too expensive. (Chinatopix Via AP)
            
              Elderly patients with COVID symptoms receive intravenous drips at the emergency ward of a hospital in Fuyang in central China's Anhui province on Jan. 4, 2023. China's healthcare authorities declined to include Pfizer's COVID-treatment drug in a national reimbursement list that would have allowed patients to get it at a cheaper price throughout the country, saying it was too expensive. (Chinatopix Via AP)
            
              A nurse shows the drugs to a family members as elderly patients with COVID symptoms receive intravenous drips while using a ventilators at the emergency ward of a hospital in Fuyang in central China's Anhui province on Jan. 4, 2023. China's healthcare authorities declined to include Pfizer's COVID-treatment drug in a national reimbursement list that would have allowed patients to get it at a cheaper price throughout the country, saying it was too expensive. (Chinatopix Via AP)
            
              A woman with COVID symptoms receives intravenous drip while using a ventilator at the emergency ward of a hospital in Fuyang in central China's Anhui province on Jan. 4, 2023. China's healthcare authorities declined to include Pfizer's COVID-treatment drug in a national reimbursement list that would have allowed patients to get it at a cheaper price throughout the country, saying it was too expensive. (Chinatopix Via AP)

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Chinese health care authorities declined to include Pfizer’s COVID-19 treatment drug in a national reimbursement list that would have allowed patients to get it at a cheaper price throughout the country, saying it was too expensive.

Paxlovid, an oral medicine developed by New York-based drugmaker Pfizer, has been widely sought after in China since the country began phasing out its “zero-COVID” restrictions and a surge of infections started sweeping through the country. Although it is supposed to be prescribed by medical professionals, that hasn’t stopped people from scrambling to purchase it on their own through any means at their disposal — including buying generic Indian versions of the drug through the internet, according to local media reports.

Health care policymakers can leverage bulk purchases to lower prices in negotiations with pharmaceutical companies that, in turn, can net a steady source of revenue. A drug must be included on the reimbursement list to be covered by the national insurance scheme. China will include two other COVID-19 drugs, the Chinese-made antiviral Azvudine and the Chinese herbal blend medicine Qingfei Paidu Granules, the National Healthcare Security Administration said in a statement Sunday.

Paxlovid will still be available for use for those patients who can afford it. Paxlovid and Azvudine are prescription drugs used to prevent mild COVID-19 cases from becoming more severe.

Pfizer’s CEO Albert Bourla said the company was working directly with Chinese authorities who have shown “tremendous interest” in the treatment. “We are sending as much Paxlovid as we can,” he said Monday in an interview with CNBC. He did not mention Paxlovid being excluded from the national reimbursement list.

While the Chinese government has blocked the import of non-Chinese-made vaccines such as the Pfizer mRNA shot, relying on domestically made vaccines, it nonetheless approved the company’s COVID-19 drug for import in February 2022.

The country is grappling with a major COVID-19 wave, as the virus has swept through major cities such as Beijing and Chengdu. Sunday was the first day in almost three years that visitors no longer needed to quarantine when traveling to China.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Pfizer’s Paxlovid not included in China’s national insurance