The Chinese are reaching out to nearby countries for fever drugs as their homeland grapples for supplies as COVID sweeps through the country.
The South China Morning Post reported on December 26 that Chinese buyers have been emptying stocks at pharmacies in Taiwan, Singapore, and Japan, forcing some to issue purchase restrictions.
One woman from Anhui province has been stocking up during her business trip to Tokyo. She purchased hundreds of packets of painkillers and cold medications for roughly 20,000 yen ($150). She told the Post the drugs were for her family and friends back in China.
She said, “I think half of my suitcase will be taken up by medicine when I return to China.”
Although Japanese shoppers were also clearing store shelves, a representative of a large drugstore chain claimed that this month he had seen a noticeable increase in Chinese shoppers hoarding as many boxes of cold medication as they could.
Besides purchase limits, one Tokyo official said they were considering raising prices to ensure medicines are available for people with real needs.
In Singapore, the Post found that on December 20, a Chinese customer bought $315 worth of Panadol products from a Guardian pharmacy in Ang Mo Kio. When it was restocked on December 22, Chinese buyers quickly emptied the shelves that morning.
Shi, a Chinese national living in Singapore, said, “My friends here communicate through group chats and they discuss where to buy flu medicine here but because the stocks are low, there is some alarm.”
Desperate for medicine, some were driven to the black market.
According to the Post, the Chinese were reaching out for anti-COVID Indian generic drugs, which are considered illegal in China since the regime has not authorized their usage.
The generic brands sold for between 530 to 1,600 yuan (around $76-$230), nearly half the price of Pfizer’s antiviral drugs that have been approved for distribution.
Likewise, in China, buyers are willing to take drugs with a close expiration date. May Shen, a Beijing resident, spent 3,800 yuan ($545) for one pack of Paxlovid, which will expire in February.
She said, “I know the drug needs to be taken under the guidance of doctors, but I am worried that if things get worse we won’t be able to get a hospital bed or see a doctor in time. It’s better to secure the drug now rather than regret it later.”