Traditional Chinese medicine maker expands amid rising overseas demand during pandemic
Published: Jan 09, 2022 08:36 PM
Photo taken on Feb. 28, 2021 shows the traditional Chinese medicine Lianhua Qingwen Capsules at a pharmacy in Kuwait City, Kuwait. (Photo: Xinhua)

Photo taken on Feb. 28, 2021 shows the traditional Chinese medicine Lianhua Qingwen Capsules at a pharmacy in Kuwait City, Kuwait. (Photo: Xinhua)

A Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) maker has been accelerating its overseas registration process and expansion plans in response to booming global demand amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Despite lingering difficulties in getting approval in countries such as the US and Australia, the number of overseas approvals issued for TCMs such as Lianhua Qingwen has quadrupled since the pandemic, industry insiders said, a clear indication of TCM gaining wider acceptance overseas.

Chinese herbal medicine maker Yiling Pharmaceutical's patented Lianhua Qingwen capsules have been recommended for the treatment of COVID-19 by some Chinese authorities and experts, making it the most frequently recommended proprietary Chinese medicine.

Rising demand for the medicine has come from some parts of Australia where local residents and students, mostly Chinese, are moving to stockpile Lianhua Qingwen, which has played a role in the prevention and control of the epidemic amid the rising severity of virus infections, the Global Times learned.

A resident in Brisbane surnamed Chou is one of those who are stockpiling Lianhua Qingwen. She told the Global Times that she has about 10 packages at the moment and expects to get another 10 packages of both Lianhua Qingwen and Banlangen granules in less than a week.

"The logistics hurdle means it takes us about a week to get the medicine, with higher costs, but we are willing to pay all the costs, given the rising severity of the situation in Australia," Chou said.

An international student based in Melbourne who asked to remain anonymous told the Global Times on Sunday that she has seen people asking to buy the medicine and more friends are infected recently, compared with 2021 and 2020. 

Another student said that she stocked up on TCM and carried it from China to Australia in 2020. "I feel safer with some Chinese medicine on hand," she said.

While there is booming demand for TCM during the pandemic, Lianhua Qingwen is still regarded as unapproved in some countries such as Australia as it lacks the required clinical validation, according to media reports.

Some express delivery companies said that Lianhua Qingwen capsules or granules sent from China to Australia can be shipped by sea or air, but they are labeled as "sensitive goods" so they may be returned, a social media account on Sina Weibo said on Saturday.

Lianhua Qingwen is not yet registered or approved for sale in the US or Australia, because a series of clinical trials need to be completed, a source with Chinese drug producer Shijiazhuang Yiling Pharmaceutical, the supplier of Lianhua Qingwen, told the Global Times on Sunday, noting that this process usually takes many years.

Despite the difficulties, the number of overseas approvals for Lianhua Qingwen has quadrupled compared with the years before the COVID-19 outbreak, the company said.

Lianhua Qingwen has obtained registration approvals and import licenses in nearly 30 countries and regions across the world, including Canada, Russia and Singapore, Yiling Pharmaceutical said. 

The company is actively pushing for the registration and listing of Lianhua Qingwen capsules in Europe, the US and other countries in line with local laws and regulations.

The US FDA phase II clinical trial of Lianhua Qingwen capsules has completed enrollment, according to Yiling Pharmaceutical.

The company is expanding its capacity in response to growing demand. Yiling Pharmaceutical said on Sunday that the first phase of its 1.44 million-square-meter medicine industrialization project in Hengshui, North China's Hebei Province, has been basically completed, which will guarantee adequate production capacity.