On the evening of December 13, Fosun Pharma, the exclusive commercial partner of Chinese COVID-19 oral drug Azvudine, confirmed to Chinese media outlet Chengdu Economic Daily that the pills can soon be prescribed through online medical platforms. Fosun Pharma added that it is contacting various domestic medical institutions with online operations, and that the price of the drug is 330 yuan ($47) per bottle (1mg*35 tablets).
Fosun Pharma also stated that most people now infected with COVID-19 do not need to go to the hospital for treatment, so they can be diagnosed by doctors through online clinics and then prescribed medicine.
Until now, only Paxlovid (nirmatrelvir tablets and ritonavir tablets), an oral drug made by American biopharmaceutical firm Pfizer, and Azvudine, developed by Chinese company Genuine Biotech, have been approved by Chinese authorities. Both drugs were once briefly available on Chinese online shopping platforms before later being removed.
On the evening of November 18, reports emerged that Azvudine tablets were sold online in some pharmacies, but at about 11:30 the next day, the product was removed from online platforms. Coincidentally, on December 13, it was reported that Paxlovid was available in online hospitals, with a price of 2,980 yuan per box. However, shortly after this news came out, it was quickly removed. According to an online commodity page, it shows that “users are recommended to go to an offline hospital for consultation.”
In fact, Paxlovid and Azvudine tablets have certain side effects, which are not necessarily suitable for common people. Consumers are being discouraged from buying them in a panic.
According to the instructions for Paxlovid, common side effects are taste changes, diarrhea, muscle pain and others. It is worth noting that a major component of Paxlovid, ritonavir, can cause liver problems, so patients with hepatitis or a history of liver disease should consult a doctor or pharmacist before taking the medicine. As for Azvudine tablets, it is also stated in the instructions that “the drug is not recommended for use during pregnancy and lactation, and for patients with moderate and severe liver and kidney damage, it should be used with caution.”
Chang Rongshan, a Chinese virologist, pointed out in an interview with Chinese media outlet Huxiu that Paxlovid is not necessary for mild patients who do not need emergency oxygen and have no obvious lung symptoms. Paxlovid is not particularly suitable to be open for sale in pharmacies. Pregnant women, people with liver and kidney insufficiency, abnormal coagulation and others should not use this drug. If someone wrongly believes it can be used to prevent COVID affection and takes the medicine without diagnosis, it may lead to adverse results.