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China Meheco to distribute Pfizer“s COVID treatment in China


China Meheco Group Co Ltd (600056.SS) said on Wednesday it signed an agreement with Pfizer Inc (PFE.N) to import and distribute the U.S. drugmaker’s oral COVID-19 treatment Paxlovid in mainland China, as the country braces for a surge in COVID patients after scaling back its “zero COVID” policy.

The agreement is valid between Dec. 14 and Nov. 30, 2023, China Meheco said in a filing to the Shanghai stock exchange.

Pfizer shares were up 3% at $54.72.

Paxlovid, which was approved by China in February, has been available through hospitals to treat high-risk patients in several provinces, Chinese media Yicai reported in March.

Pfizer signed a deal in August for Chinese drugmaker Zhejiang Huahai (600521.SS) to produce Paxlovid in mainland China solely for patients there.

Three years into the pandemic, China began pivoting away from its signature “zero COVID” policy just this month, after protests against the economically-damaging curbs that had been championed by President Xi Jinping.

The sudden loosening of restrictions has sparked long queues outside fever clinics in a worrying sign that a wave of infections is building, even though official tallies of new COVID cases have trended lower recently as authorities eased back on testing.

Earlier in the week, a Chinese healthcare platform started selling Paxlovid in what appeared to be the first retail sale of the drug in the country.

The two-drug oral treatment sold out just over half an hour after the listing was reported in the media, the platform’s customer service said, underscoring surging demand for COVID and flu medicines in China.

Pfizer was not immediately available for comment on Wednesday. In an emailed statement on Tuesday, the company said it was “actively collaborating with all stakeholders to secure an adequate supply of Paxlovid in China and remains committed to fulfilling the COVID-19 treatment needs of patients in China”.

Pfizer last year said it could produce up to 120 million courses of Paxlovid this year. As of Nov. 30, Pfizer had shipped almost 37 million courses of Paxlovid to 52 countries around the world, it said in a statement.

The U.S. government announced a deal on Tuesday to buy an additional 3.7 million Paxlovid courses for nearly $2 billion, supplementing the 20 million courses already purchased by the United States.

Pfizer, which also sells the COVID-19 vaccine it developed with German partner BioNTech SE (22UAy.DE), is expected to top $100 billion in revenue this year, more than half projected to come from its COVID business.

Prior to announcement of the new U.S. contract, analysts had forecast Paxlovid sales would top $22 billion in 2022 and be close to $12 billion next year, according to Refinitiv data.

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FILE PHOTO:People wearing masks line up outside a pharmacy, as coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreaks continue, in Beijing, China December 13, 2022. REUTERS/Alessandro Diviggiano

Paxlovid, Pfizer’s anti-viral medication to treat the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), is displayed in this picture illustration taken October 7, 2022. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay/Illustration