Exclusive: China in talks with Pfizer for generic COVID drug – sources

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Exclusive: China in talks with Pfizer for generic COVID drug – sources

By Julie Zhu and Kevin Huang

HONG KONG/BEIJING, Jan 6 (Reuters) – China is in talks with Pfizer Inc. (PFE.N) to secure a license that will allow domestic drugmakers to manufacture and distribute a generic version of the U.S. firm’s COVID-19 antiviral drug Paxlovid in China, three sources told Reuters.

China’s medical products regulator – the National Medical Products Administration (NMPA) – has been leading the talks with Pfizer since late last month, one of the sources with knowledge of the matter said.

Beijing is keen to finalize licensing deal terms before the Lunar New Year which begins on Jan. 22, the source said.

Chinese hospitals are under intense pressure after the government abruptly abandoned its “zero-COVID” policy last month, sending infections soaring. The surging wave of infections across the country has overwhelmed hospitals, emptied pharmacies of medicines and caused international alarm.

Paxlovid, found to have reduced hospitalizations in high-risk patients by around 90% in a clinical trial, is in high demand with many Chinese attempting to get the drug abroad and have it shipped to China. Beijing has been largely resistant to western vaccines and treatments. Oral treatment Paxlovid is one of the few foreign ones it has approved.

In February last year, China approved Paxlovid, which was supposed to be largely available via hospitals, to treat high-risk patients in several provinces. Pfizer last month reached an agreement to export Paxlovid to China through a local company to make the medicine more widely available.