Chinese drug firms, stores rush to meet surging demand for fever, cold drugs after easing of anti-COVID measures
Supplies of fever, cold drugs grow after easing of anti-COVID measures
Published: Dec 07, 2022 07:22 PM
Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

China’s pharmaceutical sector is scrambling to boost market supplies as demand surges for fever and cold drugs after the relaxing of epidemic control measures.

Skyrocketing demand has stretched supplies and pushed up prices. Local governments and drug suppliers are working to stabilize inventory and urging consumers not to hoard medications.

A press conference of the Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism of the State Council was held in Beijing on Thursday, during which a new guideline on home quanrantine was issued, together with a list of recommended drugs including ibuprofen, aspirin and Lianhua Qingwen.

Pharmacies in Beijing, Guangzhou and other cities told the Global Times that Lianhua Qingwen capsules, a traditional Chinese medicine that is reportedly able to treat COVID-19 symptoms, are sold out.

"The drug is so popular these days that it is sold out once it's put on the shelf," an employee of one local pharmacy in Beijing said.

At another pharmacy, customers can only buy two boxes of Lianhua Qingwen.

Demand has also spiked for other cold and fever medicines such as ibuprofen, often used for headaches. The Global Times contacted seven pharmacies in Beijing and Guangzhou on Wednesday, and all had sold out of the drug.

The surge in demand has also pushed up prices. Normally, a box of 24 Lianhua Qingwen capsules retails at 15 yuan ($2.15), but the price is now about 70 yuan on some e-commerce platforms including Meituan, according to media reports. The drug is no longer available at most online stores.

Some products that enhance natural resistance, such as vitamin C lozenges, were also reportedly out of stock.

The rush for over-the-counter medicines comes as China lifts restrictions on the online and in-store purchase of cough, antipyretic, antiviral and antibiotic drugs, removing prior real-name registration requirements for purchase.

The strong demand was reflected in the performance of Chinese medicine companies on the A-share market on Thursday. The share price of Yiling Pharmaceutical, the maker of Lianhua Qingwen capsules, closed at 51.76 yuan per share on Thursday, up 5.37 percent. 

Yiling Pharmaceutical told the Global Times that the company is adjusting production to meet demand. The Shijiazhuang-based drugmaker has worked on capacity expansion over the past 24 months, the company said.

Shandong Xinhua Pharmaceutical Co, which makes ibuprofen tablets, is also adjusting production, the Global Times learned.

A clerk at the Shandong Xinhua Pharmaceutical Co told the Global Times on Wednesday that the company is adjusting production based on market demand. "We do not advocate stockpiling of drugs. It’s unnecessary and leads to wasted resources, and those who really need these medicines can’t get them," the person said.

The Beijing Food and Drug Administration told the media that Beijing has released about 400,000 boxes of Lianhua Qingwen on the market each day since Monday, which can guarantee supply. The agency asked people not to stockpile large quantities of medicines.

The production capacity of drug manufacturers appears to be limited for now, Wang Xuegong, deputy director of the China Pharmaceutical Enterprises Association, told the Global Times on Wednesday. Stockpiling will be temporary as both governments and companies are working on the issue, Wang said.

China’s Medical Products Administration on Thursday issued a notice to further strengthen the supervision of COVID-19 antigen products after entering the market.

The validity of the registration certificate of the antigen test reagent that has been approved for registration will be extended by six months on top of the original validity, according to the notice. It further urged relevant enterprises to follow rules and local authorities to strengthen management and supervision to ensure the safety of production and quality.