Using China’s frantic hunt for medicines, the black market offers supplies at significantly blown-up prices.
Radio Free Asia reported from residents that the cost of Pfizer’s Covid drug Paxlovid changes every day. Gu, a Shanghainese, said on December 5, it sold a box at 4,500 yuan (over $450). Two weeks before, one box of the antiviral treatment was sold for 1,200 yuan ($172). In April, the U.S. agreed to sell a five-dose course of the drug at $530.
The Bund, a mainland media, online offers for Paxlovid soared from 3,500 yuan a box to 15,000 yuan (around $500-$2,150) within just one week. In the final week of December, it was marketed at over 20,000 yuan (more than $2,800).
Shanghai resident Gu said Paxista, the generic version of Paxlovid, was also sold at different daily costs. On December 24, it was priced at 1,800 yuan but inflated to 2,300 yuan the following day. By December 28, the cost rose to over 5,000 yuan. The numbers in approximately U.S. dollars are about $260, $330, and $720.
India-based news outlet WION News says in their country, one Paxista box costs 1,600 yuan (around $230).
Even hospitals were selling the high-demand drug at gouged prices. The Financial Times said on December 28 that several expensive hospitals were asking 8,300 yuan ($1,200) for a box of Paxlovid.
One hospital official said Oasis International Hospital in Beijing sold out of their 300-box inventory this month in less than 24 hours.
The scramble for medicines in China has only worsened after the Financial Times reported on December 21 that local officials were pushing factories to ramp up drug production. In the latest update, Chinese doctors told the publication that officials and business owners were hoarding pills for their family and friends.
One business owner in Beijing said a friend had gifted him two boxes of Paxlovid, which were taken from a hospital department that treats high government officials.
The person had no intention of keeping the gift, saying, “I am going to give it to someone else who needs the drug as a present.”