Chinese pharmaceutical firms operate at full capacity to address cold medicine shortage
Published: Dec 20, 2022 07:46 PM
A worker sorts packages of medicines at the storage and transportation center of a pharmaceutical firm in Lianyungang, East China's Jiangsu Province on December 18, 2022. China is stepping up efforts to ensure stable medical supplies amid rising COVID-19 infections. Photo: cnsphoto

A worker sorts packages of medicines at the storage and transportation center of a pharmaceutical firm in Lianyungang, East China's Jiangsu Province on December 18, 2022. Photo: cnsphoto

Many Chinese pharmaceutical companies are operating at full capacity to meet rocketing demand for cold and fever medicines, and thanks to various measures taken by the government and firms, the shortages are easing, according to industry insiders on Tuesday. 

Both government agencies and the pharmaceutical industry have been stepping up efforts to secure production and distribution, including sending additional personnel to factories to ensure sufficient supplies, industry insiders said. A full recovery is expected in the next week or two, one industry insider noted.  

An executive secretary of Shandong Xinhua Pharmaceutical, a producer of ibuprofen, told the Global Times on Tuesday that production lines are operating around the clock. "We have brought in additional staff," the person said, adding that as a state-owned company, it feels a sense of responsibility to ensure stable supplies.

Taiji Group, a domestic pharmaceutical producer based in Southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, is also working around the clock to increase supplies.  

An employee told the Global Times on Tuesday that there's been a surge in demand for some of the firm's cold medicines, but production capacity has been sufficient so far.

The company is also working to stabilize production costs. "We have not seen any changes in production costs on our end," the employee said.

At Hebei Dongfeng Pharmaceutical, each production line is operating at full capacity, primarily producing ibuprofen and other drugs. Media reports said that the daily production capacity of ibuprofen at the company reaches 1.5 million tablets, which is sufficient to meet the daily needs of 300,000 people.

Chinese officials have also been stepping up efforts to secure supplies. At a press conference on Tuesday, the National Medical Products Administration said that it has increased support for the market supply of medications related to the epidemic, including guiding pharmaceutical companies to conduct research in accordance with regulations and expand production capacity in an orderly manner.

Although the supply of these drugs remains tight for the moment, the situation has improved from last week, as reflected at pharmacies in Beijing, industry sources said, noting that this is the result of the recent efforts by government agencies and producers.

An employee at a branch of pharmacy chain Tongrentang in the Panjiayuan area, Beijing's Chaoyang district, told the Global Times on Tuesday that ibuprofen is now available, but each person can only get a box of 25 tablets.

Despite the tightened supplies, the situation is easing, an employee at a Guoda pharmacy in Chaoyang district said on Tuesday.

The store is setting a limit of 20 tablets of ibuprofen per person. "Due to the government support, cold-related drugs are no longer as scarce as before," she said.

Local governments in several provinces, including Central China's Hubei and East China's Shandong and Zhejiang, are also stepping up efforts to guarantee supplies of ibuprofen on the market.

Wuhan, capital of Hubei Province, began to release 3 million tablets of ibuprofen every day for a week from Saturday, while Jinan, capital of Shandong province, announced that 1.1 million ibuprofen tablets have been released in the market.

The Zhejiang provincial government said that the daily output of ibuprofen granules has reached 40,000 boxes.

The production capacity of conventional drugs like ibuprofen in China is sufficient, since China is one of the largest producers of ibuprofen in the world, accounting about one-third of the world's capacity, an industry insider told the Global Times.

The industry insider predicted that the severe shortage of these medications in Beijing and some other major cities will likely ease by the end of December.