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Where do fake COVID drugs come from in China?

Source of counterfeit pills may be Indian generic drug makers, distributors say.

Only a small number of Chinese can get their hands on Pfizer’s antiviral medicine Paxlovid.   © Reuters

The rapid unwinding of China's COVID restrictions in December triggered a wave of stockpiling of antiviral drugs, including Pfizer's Paxlovid, but access to that treatment has been limited due to low domestic supply. That opened the door to a thriving black market for Indian generic versions and copies that turned out to be fake.

Paxlovid was initially available at prices of 1,890 to 3,000 yuan ($280 to $445) for a five-day course of 30 pills only through designated COVID hospitals and some high-end private hospitals. Although Pfizer has increased supplies and the Chinese government has been pushing to make the drug more widely available, only a small number of residents can get their hands on it. Consequently, many people are turning to shady overseas buyers.

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