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Domestic drug R&D breakthroughs required

China Daily | Updated: 2022-04-21 07:34

A worker carries out sample testing in a medical company in Jiangsu province, on April 9, 2020. [Photo by Tang Dehong/for China Daily]

Oral drug Paxlovid, which was introduced in China in March, has since been distributed in 22 provincial-level regions such as Jilin, Shanghai, Guangdong, Hubei, Henan and Hebei for use as a preventive against COVID-19.

Preliminary clinical feedback suggests the anti-virus drug has a definite curative effect in terms of symptom alleviation and the conversion of nucleic acid from positive to negative, and the sample size is being expanded to make the results more accurate.

Paxlovid is mainly prescribed in China for adults showing mild symptoms within five days of the onset of COVID-19, as well as for those aged 12-17 and weighing more than 40 kilograms. Risk factors include advanced age, chronic kidney disease, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and chronic lung disease. On March 21, the National Health and Security Administration issued a notice, stipulating that Paxlovid should be purchased by medical institutions according to the price agreed between the relevant enterprise and state departments, and the expenses be covered by medical insurance. It only took a month for China to complete the process of its inclusion as a novel coronavirus treatment drug covered by medical insurance.

Paxlovid costs around $530 in the United States, and China purchased more than 21,000 boxes of it at 2,300 yuan ($359) per box. Neither price is cheap, but it should be "acceptable" considering the astronomical research and development costs and patent fees for any new drug.

China's medical authorities should continue to make efforts for Paxlovid's centralized procurement to create more convenient conditions for the emergency use of Paxlovid or other anti-epidemic drugs.

At present, all domestic oral drugs for COVID-19 are in their pre-clinical stage, and the commercial use of the first-batch of antibody drugs is expected to become possible within this year. It is imperative for China to further strengthen the research and development and innovation of domestic COVID-19 treatment drugs, including traditional Chinese medicines, and strengthen the "Chinese strength" in the R&D of specific drugs for COVID-19.

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