A Chinese healthcare platform has started selling Pfizer’s (PFE.N) oral COVID treatment pill Paxlovid in what appears to be the first retail sale of the drug in the country, as China braces for a surge in COVID patients.
The medication sold out just over half an hour after the listing was reported in the media, the platform’s customer service said, underscoring surging demand for COVID and flu medicines in China.
Three years into the pandemic, China began pivoting away from its signature ‘zero COVID’ policy just this month after historic protests against economically-damaging curbs that had been repeatedly championed by President Xi Jinping.
The sudden loosening of restrictions has sparked long queues outside fever clinics in a worrying sign that a wave of infections is building, even though official tallies of new cases have trended lower recently as authorities eased back on testing.
Healthcare company 111.inc has started selling Paxlovid for 2,980 yuan ($426.80) per box, the sales page on the app showed on Tuesday.
People can purchase the medication on the app if they submit a positive COVID-19 test result.
It was not clear how many boxes were sold and when sales would resume, or whether other retailers have also started selling the drug.
Pfizer did not immediately reply to a Reuters’ request for comment.
The launch of retail sales of Paxlovid in China could be a major earnings boost to Pfizer, which has faced some investor concerns about a sharp hit to its topline from an expected decline in COVID vaccine demand.
Paxlovid, which was approved by China in February, has been available through hospitals to treat high-risk patients in several provinces, Chinese media Yicai reported in March.
Pfizer said on Monday that annual revenue from its messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine portfolio could reach $10 billion to $15 billion by 2030.
Its COVID-19 vaccine, jointly developed with its German partner BioNTech (22UAy.DE) using mRNA technology, is not approved for use in China.