Pfizer’s Paxlovid Fails to Get in China’s National Insurance Policy

by EditorT

Pfizer’s Paxlovid is displayed in Pembroke Pines, Florida, on July 7, 2022. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

By Mary Hong

China’s National Healthcare Security Administration (NHSA) announced on Jan. 10 that it will not include Pfizer’s Paxlovid in its national reimbursement plan due to its high cost.

The negotiation between China and Pfizer on Tuesday failed because Pfizer considered China “a middle-income country,” and the price proposed by Beijing was lower than what Pfizer would have accepted, according to several media outlets.

Under the current Chinese medical insurance policy, the reimbursement for Paxlovid will continue until the end of March, the NHSA said.

NHSA gave conditional approval of Paxlovid for treating COVID-19 in February last year, making it the first oral COVID treatment pill cleared in the country.

Pfizer’s Response

“China is the world’s second-largest economy, and I don’t think it should pay less than El Salvador, which is a poor country,” said Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, according to Nova.News.

Pfizer on Tuesday ruled out generic Paxlovid for China.

In August 2022, the drugmaker teamed up with Chinese firm Zhejiang Huahai to produce and sell Paxlovid exclusively in China for five years.

However, Zhejiang Huahai was investigated by the FDA in 2018 for a suspected carcinogen found in a blood pressure medicine it produced.


COVID-19 patients rest in the Second Affiliated Hospital of Chongqing Medical University in China’s southwestern city of Chongqing on Dec. 23, 2022. (Noel Celis/AFP via Getty Images)

Cost Versus Life

According to the Chinese tabloid Global Times, sources familiar with the matter told Caixin News that “Pfizer almost did not lower the price of 1,890 yuan [about $271] per pack during negotiations with the NHSA.”

Regarding Beijing’s complaints about the high price, Henry Gao, a law professor at Singapore Management University, posted on Twitter: “How much is a life worth in China? No more than 300 USD, or less than 100 USD if you don’t believe in Global Times.”

Cai Xia, a former politics professor from the Central Party School of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), commented on Twitter: “The Xi administration failed to negotiate on the pretext that Paxlovid was expensive. … Look at the Chinese angrily condemning the Xi regime!”

Several Chinese netizens complained that the CCP would send $60 billion to Africa, and invest $20 billion in the Philippines, but would not pay for the drugs that could save lives.

In 2015, Beijing pledged $60 billion in development assistance to Africa.

In 2018, Beijing offered an extra $60 billion in financing to African countries, in addition to canceling the interest-free loans due to mature by year’s end.

In 2021, Chinese officials announced that Beijing canceled interest-free loan debts worth $113.8 million that matured in 2020 for 15 African countries.

Recently on Jan. 5, Beijing pledged to invest $22.8 billion in agribusinesses and fisheries in the Philippines.

A Chinese netizen posted on Twitter: “Stop throwing money away! Be nice to the people.”

Zhang Ting contributed to this report.


Mary Hong

Mary Hong has contributed to The Epoch Times since 2020. She has reported on Chinese human rights issues and politics.

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