China says talks to include Paxlovid in state health insurance fail

China's Health Security Administration said on Sunday that talks to include Pfizer's Paxlovid in the latest drug list for basic state health insurance did not succeed.

China will not include Pfizer Inc's PFE.N Paxlovid in an update to its list of medicines covered by basic medical insurance schemes as the US firm quoted a high price for the COVID-19 drug, China's Healthcare Security Administration (NHSA) said on Sunday.

The COVID-19 antiviral drug is currently covered by the country's broad healthcare insurance scheme under temporary measures the regulator introduced in March last year as outbreaks rose.

But authorities held talks with Pfizer in recent days to decide whether to include it in the latest version of their list, which they update on an annual basis.

Inclusion on the list means a drug is accessible via state insurance schemes, which will boost volumes but comes with the condition that manufacturers lower prices. Past rounds have seen drugmakers cut prices by as much as 62% after negotiations with officials.

Pfizer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The NHSA said Paxlovid would continue to be eligible to be paid for by state medical insurance until the current planned end-date to the temporary measures of March 31.

While the talks on Paxlovid failed, they succeeded with two other COVID-19 treatment drugs – herbal medication Qingfei Paidu granules and Chinese drugmaker Genuine Biotech's Azvudine – which will be included in the list's update, the regulator said.

Reuters reported on Saturday, citing sources, that China is in talks with Pfizer to secure a licence that will allow domestic drugmakers to manufacture and distribute a generic version of Paxlovid.

Last month, China Meheco Group Co said on Wednesday it signed an agreement with Pfizer to import and distribute Paxlovid in the mainland.

Pfizer also signed a deal in August for Chinese drugmaker Zhejiang Huahai to produce Paxlovid in the mainland solely for patients there.

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