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Pfizer CEO says there will be no generic Paxlovid for China

An online pharmacy displays Pfizer’s oral anti-Covid drug Paxlovid for 2,980 yuan per box in Suqian, Jiangsu province, China on December 13, 2022.

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Pfizer is not in talks with Chinese authorities to license a generic version of its Covid-19 treatment Paxlovid for use there, but is in discussions about a price for the branded product, CEO Albert Bourla said on Monday.

Reuters reported on Friday that China was in talks with Pfizer to secure a license that would allow domestic drugmakers to manufacture and distribute a generic version of the US firm’s Covid-19 antiviral drug Paxlovid in China.

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Referring to that report, Bourla said at JPMorgan’s healthcare conference in San Francisco: “We are not in discussions. We already have an agreement for local production of Paxlovid in China. So we have a local partner who will make Paxlovid for us, and then we sell it to the Chinese market.”

Bourla said the company had shipped thousands of processing runs in 2022 to China and in the past couple of weeks had increased that to millions.

On Sunday, China’s Healthcare Security Administration (NHSA) said the country will not include Paxlovid in an update of its list of drugs covered by basic medical insurance schemes, as the US firm quoted a high price for the Covid-19 drug.

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Bourla said talks with China about future pricing for the treatment had broken down after China had asked for a lower price than Pfizer charges for most low-income countries.

“They are the second highest economy in the world and I don’t think they should pay less than El Salvador,” Bourla said.

Still, Bourla said the delisting would not have an effect on the company’s operations there until April. He said the company had shipped millions of courses of the drug to China in recent weeks.

The company may end up selling only to the private market in China, he said.

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