China gives conditional approval to Pfizer COVID Paxlovid pill | News on the coronavirus pandemic
China’s National Medical Products Administration says more research on the drug needs to be undertaken.
China says it has given “conditional” approval to Pfizer’s COVID-19 drug Paxlovid to treat adults with mild to moderate disease who are at high risk of developing severe disease.
The drug has so far been authorized in around 40 countries, while the European Union has allowed member states to use it ahead of formal approval as an emergency measure against the fast-spreading variant of the Omicron coronavirus.
“This is an important step in our fight against COVID-19,” a Pfizer representative said in a statement, without providing purchase information.
Unlike COVID-19 vaccines, Pfizer says preliminary studies show Paxlovid does not target the ever-changing spike protein the coronavirus uses to invade cells, meaning it should theoretically be more resistant to variants.
China’s National Medical Products Administration said on Saturday that further research on the drug should be undertaken and submitted to the regulator.
Beijing has not yet approved any foreign-made coronavirus vaccines.
Laboratory tests have shown that Omicron patients injected with the China-produced Sinovac vaccine experience greater declines in antibody levels than those given the Pfizer version.
Earlier this week, Pfizer, whose vaccine developed with Germany’s BioNTech was the first approved in the United States, predicted more than $50 billion in sales in 2022 for its coronavirus vaccine and therapeutic treatment.
The company plans to complete 120 million Paxlovid treatments, with executives describing ongoing contract negotiations with around 100 governments.
China has yet to approve COVID-19 vaccines developed by foreign drugmakers, but has vaccinated 87.1 percent of its entire population as of Feb. 7 using several domestically developed injections.
Beijing’s conditional approval of the pill comes as China – where the coronavirus first emerged in late 2019 – slowed new cases with a strict ‘zero-COVID’ strategy of targeted lockdowns, travel restrictions and long quarantines.
The country has kept its daily number of new COVID-19 patients with confirmed symptoms to less than 250, and sometimes less than 10, over the past year.
The number is low for its population of 1.4 billion and by global standards, thanks to China’s approach of rapidly containing any local outbreaks as soon as possible and its multi-week quarantine requirement for the most travelers arriving from abroad.
The 40 new domestic cases in China on Saturday occurred in just two cities, according to the National Health Commission.
One of them, the southern town of Baise – a major aluminum producer – was locked down this week amid a spike in infections, pushing global metal prices to a 14-year high.
The other cases were detected in the northeastern coastal city of Huludao, prompting authorities to suspend interprovincial tourism in surrounding Liaoning province, state broadcaster CCTV reported on Saturday.
The country’s uncompromising approach to the pandemic has led it to hold the current Winter Olympics in a so-called closed loop, preventing participants from coming into contact with the wider population.
Organizers announced eight new cases linked to the games on Saturday, including four athletes and team officials.
More than 400 Olympics-related cases have been confirmed so far, organizers said in a statement.