China Faces Lack of Antigen Test Kits and COVID Medicine After Lifting Restrictions
With the recent relaxation of the Chinese government’s zero COVID policy, drugs for flu symptoms and fever such as Ibuprofen and Lianhua Qingwen, antigen test kits and vitamin C tablets are out of stock in pharmacies and e-commerce platforms.
On December 8, an antigen testing program issued by the Chinese government showed that all personnel could conduct self-antigen testing at any time. In the last several days, many local authorities across the country have successively issued new pandemic prevention measures, reducing the frequency of mandatory nucleic acid testing and advocating for more antigen tests.
According to data from Dingxiang Doctor, an online medical service platform in China, the average daily sales volume of antigen test kits has increased by more than 400 times compared with November. The search volume of Ibuprofen, amoxicillin, Tylenol, cephalosporin and other commonly used drugs on the platform began to increase significantly this week. According to the sales data of Dingxiang Doctor’s store, the sales volume of anti-COVID related products increased nearly 10 times on December 6 compared with the end of November, among which masks and antigen test kits accounted for nearly half, and the sales volume of vitamin C and disinfection products also increased slightly.
According to data from JD.com‘s health arm, the turnover of antigen test kits increased by 344% from November 28 to December 4 compared with last week. The turnover of drugs for cold, fever, cough, and anti-inflammatory drugs in the past seven days increased by 18 times compared with October.
In a report by Yicai, a citizen in Chongqing said that the community he lives in has started group-buying of antigen test kits, masks, and other items. The price for group purchasing antigen test kits is 3.5 yuan ($0.5), while the price at pharmacies is 4.9 yuan. Many pharmacies reported that it is difficult to supply antigen test kits.
On e-commerce platforms, the prices of antigen test kits with 20 units are mostly around 70 yuan to 100 yuan, but the delivery after purchase is not ideal. The flagship store of Andon Health and Lepu Medical Technology on JD.com have started the pre-sale mode, among which the test kit of Andon Health with a price of 124.5 yuan can only be delivered from December 15 to December 17, if placed on December 9.
According to the official website of China’s Medical Products Administration, there are currently 32 kinds of products with a medical device registration certificate for COVID-19 antigen test kits, including 14 listed companies such as Shanghai ZJ Bio-Tech, Shenzhen YHLO Biotech, Hotgen Biotech, Vazyme Biotech, and Livzon Pharm.
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Some enterprises are trying to deal with the shortage. JD Health said that it is now cooperating with antigen test kit manufacturers to ensure a stable supply by building a dedicated product line and mobilizing supply chains. Wantai Biolog Pha Ent and Wondfo Biotech are also stepping up production.
However, with the increase in sales volume, some merchants began to raise prices for hot-selling drugs. For example, the price difference between online and offline channels of Lianhua Qingwen reaches 50 yuan. On December 5, Hangzhou’s Market Supervision Bureau issued a reminder on the price increase, warning that operators should strictly control the price difference within a reasonable range, and that offenders can be fined up to 5 million yuan. Since then, many market supervision bureaus have issued similar warnings.