On January 10, according to the official website of the Tianjin Medical Purchasing Center, the price of Molnupiravir, a COVID-19 drug developed by US pharmaceutical company Merck, was 1,500 yuan ($222) per bottle of 40 capsules. Meanwhile, the CIF import price (excluding tax) was between 1,100 yuan and 1,200 yuan, which is lower than the $712 it sells for in other countries such as the United States, Japan and South Korea.
The price of Molnupiravir per bottle is lower than that of Pfizer’s COVID-19 oral medicine Paxlovid, which costs 1,890 yuan per box for temporary medical insurance in some places in China. Molnupiravir and Paxlovid are both used to treat adult patients with severe risk factors for COVID-19.
Molnupiravir has been co-developed by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, and was approved for sale in China on December 29, 2022, becoming the second imported COVID-19 small molecule oral drug approved in the country.
In September last year, Merck signed a cooperation framework agreement with Sinopharm Group, granting the distribution rights and exclusive import rights of Molnupiravir in China to the Chinese state-owned group. On January 11, Merck China revealed in a statement that it had started negotiations with Sinopharm on a production technology license for Molnupiravir, which would allow Sinopharm to produce and supply the drug domestically.
According to The Paper, Cai Maisong, the vice president of Sinopharm, said in an interview on January 10, “It is optimistically estimated that Merck’s Molnupiravir is expected to be sold in the domestic market before the Spring Festival.” Liu Yong, the president of Sinopharm, stated on January 11 that Molnupiravir is expected to enter the market in China on Friday.
Regarding the latest progress of Molnupiravir’s domestic sales, Cai said that in the early morning of January 4, hundreds of thousands of boxes of the drug had arrived at a warehouse in Shanghai, and that its continued transportation would be ensured.
As for which channels and areas Molnupiravir will adopt in future sales, Cai’s answer was large hospitals. Its sale through online platforms will be subject to the instructions of relevant departments, he added.
Recently, news emerged that a suspected unauthorized generic drug of Molnupiravir was used in some hospitals in Zhejiang. Merck said that Sinopharm is the only legally authorized importer in China and that it has never authorized other manufacturers in the country to produce or copy Molnupiravir.