Paxlovid failing to enter China's insurance drug list won't affect patients' access to drug: experts
Published: Jan 09, 2023 10:28 PM
Paxlovid Photo: VCG

Paxlovid Photo: VCG

People in need can still have Pfizer's COVID-19 treatment drug Paxlovid with public insurance covering most of its cost, while arrangements for future purchases of the drug remain unsettled, the Global Times learned from hospitals on Monday after talks between China's insurance authority and US pharmaceutical company Pfizer to include the drug in China's public health insurance system broke down.

Experts said the failure won't have much impact on whether Chinese people can buy Paxlovid, and that would depend on the amount Pfizer is able to supply to China.

Paxlovid will not be added to the list of medicines covered by China's basic medical insurance plans because the company's quotation was too high, China's Healthcare Security Administration (NHSA) announced on Sunday.

While Paxlovid failed to enter the insurance drug list, it will still be covered under medical insurance until March 31, said the NHSA. 

China's homegrown oral anti-COVID-19 drug Azvudine and the traditional Chinese medicine Qingfei Paidu Formula are included in the list.

A staffer from a community hospital in Shanghai told the Global Times on Monday that Paxlovid is currently covered under the state insurance and people could pay the discounted price depending on their different reimbursement rates. 

The staffer said that they hadn't received any notice about when Paxlovid will be excluded from the insurance drug list.

The Global Times learned that a major hospital in Beijing's Daxing district usually gets Paxlovid from the NHSA under the coordination and distribution of the Beijing health commission, while public insurance covers most of the drug's cost.

As multiple places in China are facing peaks of COVID-19 cases with critical symptoms, China has tried to make Paxlovid more accessible to patients. 

Pfizer almost did not lower the price of 1,890 yuan (about $271) per pack during negotiations with the NHSA, Caixin News reported, citing sources familiar with the matter. The report also added that claims Pfizer had reduced the price to about 600 yuan was absolute fake news.

"Paxlovid is a globalized product, whose production requires seven months and raw material from countries like China, India and South Africa. Selling to many countries around the world requires the company to set relatively balanced prices among different countries," Zhuang Shilihe, a Guangzhou-based medical expert who closely follows public health issues, told the Global Times on Monday.

Zhuang said whether Chinese people in need can get Paxlovid won't be affected by the failure to include the drug on China's insurance drug list, but by the amount of it that Pfizer can supply to China.

Zhuang said if there is sufficient supply, Chinese patients could still get the drug from local hospitals after March 31.