The recent rapid rise of COVID cases across China has led to a rush to buy medical products, such as antibiotics, ibuprofen, and antigen test kits. New Tang Dynasty reported on December 15 that some pharmacies and online platforms had taken advantage of the current chaos to increase prices or sell medicine in bundles.

Xuehua News reported that at the end of November, some pharmacies sold Lianhua Qingwen capsules at 46 yuan ($6.60) per box, an increase of 50%. Lianhua Qingwen capsules were sold between 12.25 yuan to 58 yuan ($1.80- $8.40). A shopping app shows the unit price of this medicine ranges from 14.8 yuan to 59.9 yuan ($5.20 – $8.60).

Yang, a Beijing resident, said on December 7, he visited many stores to buy Lianhua Qingwen. After going to 5 drug stores in Chaoyang District and Haidian District, he failed to purchase the medicine because all of them had sold out. At the 6th store, the medicine was still available but at the very high price of 150 yuan ($22) a box.

New Tang Dynasty reported that some online platforms sold an “anti-epidemic” kit including 14 kinds of drugs containing Lianhua Qingwen for as much as 428 yuan ($62). 

In some local pharmacies, Lianhua Qingwen is bundled with other medicines, with the price ranging from $58 to $128. Such bundle sales phenomenon is also seen in different places, such as Liaoning and Tianjin.

Similarly, the price of an antigen kit has almost tripled to 7 yuan ($1), with some merchants selling one for 10 yuan ($1.50) on social platforms.

However, while residents complained about the price hikes amid the current difficult situation, experts warn of possible liver damage by Lianhua Qingwen. 

A resident named Zhang said that people in China have lost their conscience and have no basic morals, referring to the price hikes by drugmakers and pharmacies.

Peng Jie, a professor at the Department of Infectious Diseases at Nanfang Hospital said that the abuse of cold medicines could lead to liver failure, which may be life-threatening in severe cases.Chen Chuxiong, the deputy chief pharmacist of the Department of Pharmacy at Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University, reminded the public that not everyone is suitable to take Lianhua. It has a certain toxicity. People with stomach complaints or diarrhea should not take it. Moreover, it contains ephedra, which can cause an increase in blood pressure.

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