How Covid-hit China is dealing with its drug shortages

How Covid-hit China is dealing with its drug shortages
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Hong Kong

The Abrupt change in China’s Covid policy it has left its people and health facilities ill-prepared to deal with a huge wave of infections, leading to widespread shortages of the most common drugs used to alleviate flu-like symptoms.

Local versions of Tylenol and Advil are almost impossible to get in pharmacies across the country, fueling anger and concern over the lack of availability of basic medical supplies. Collective anxiety skyrocketed after multiple state media posts began voicing the phrase: “Everyone is responsible for their own health first.” in recent weeks.

To quell panic buying, regional governments have implemented unusual measures to limit sales and increase supplies of popular fever medicines. Some areas have resorted to rationing the amount of drugs on sale, even the pill.

Starting Tuesday, more than 500 pharmacies in Zhuhai, a port city in southern China, vowed to “continuously supply” a series of fever-reducing drugs, including ibuprofen, according to a declaration by the municipal government. Ibuprofen is the generic name for Advil.

However, there are strict limits on what residents can purchase. They can choose only one form of a particular fever medicine, for example liquid or tablet ibuprofen. Purchases are strictly limited to a maximum of six tablets or 100 milliliters (3 ounces) of liquid per customer. And that’s for the whole week.

Nanjing, a historical city in eastern China, swore to guarantee the daily supply of medicines for fevers. However, he did not specify the type of medication or the total amount delivered, which must be distributed for sale among 150 pharmacies. Each customer can buy only six pills per day.

In the central province of Hubei, the drug regulator says local pharmacies may allow each customer to buy no more than three days worth of ibuprofen or acetaminophen, the generic name for Tylenol, daily.

The rationing policies have drawn mixed reviews on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter. Some users called the measuresoutrageous“but others said they could help”prevent hardeningof medicines

An empty shelf is seen in a pharmacy on December 21, 2022 in Beijing, China.  The rapid spread of the virus in China has left many pharmacies without medicines to treat COVID-19.

China is one of the countries in the world the best producers of pharmaceuticals and the raw materials used to make medicines.

From the northernmost province of heilongjiang to the southernmost island of HainanDozens of companies in China’s major pharmaceutical hubs said this week they were “doing everything possible” to expand production of fever and antiviral drugs.

In the southwestern province of Sichuan, the government announced emergency measures on Monday authorizing payments of up to 1 million yuan ($143,160) per company to allow them to increase production of COVID-19-related products.

“[We] it will support companies that manufacture antigen test kits or Covid medicines to work overtime for production, and provide cash subsidies to employees of our provincial industrial development funds,” according to a new released by the Sichuan government, adding that the special subsidy would be valid until April 2023.

A major Chinese pharmaceutical company said this week that it expects shortages of fever medicines to subside soon as manufacturers ramp up production.

“The current shortage should ease in two months. With the intervention and regulation of the state, it can be advanced”, said Honz Pharmaceutical in a declaration.

The Haikou-based drugmaker said there was a “short-term” shortage of its fever and cold medicines, mainly due to hoarding. But has increased shipping volumes and the shortage needs to be resolved quickly, the company added.

Those promises are not much comfort to Covid patients desperately seeking ways to alleviate their symptoms.

“In the last five days I had a lot of symptoms, but I couldn’t buy any medicine to treat my sore throat, cough or fever. None of the drugs are available,” Fairy Zang told CNN. Zang is a resident of the Chinese capital, which is currently experiencing the worst covid outbreak in her history.

“In the end, I just bought a box of metronidazole for swollen gums,” he said, referring to a common antibiotic that is ineffective against viruses. Zang said he was eventually able to get ibuprofen through friends.

Tech giant Tencent announced this week that it had launched a program through its Wechat social messaging app that allowed people to share surplus fever medicine. Users in need of medication can check boxes indicating their needs and their personal information, giving those close to them the opportunity to donate.

Since its launch on Tuesday, the page has received more than a million visitors exchanging more than 260,000 messages, Tencent said. Caixin media group. The top five cities that needed donations were Beijing, Shenzhen, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hangzhou, she said.

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