Two major oral antiviral pills, Pfizer's Paxlovid and the domestically-developed Azvudine, are now available for COVID-19 treatment at community clinics in several districts in Shanghai and Beijing.
The medications can be acquired with a prescription by elderly or vulnerable COVID-19 patients who are in the early stages of their infections, according to health authorities.
In Minhang district, all its 14 community-level medical institutions can prescribe Paxlovid for patients. The price is 1,890 yuan ($275) and is partially covered by medical insurance.
In Huangpu district, Paxlovid has been used for treatment for several days among community clinics but doctors have cautioned there is a strict criterion for usage, according to an article published on the district's official WeChat account.
"The drug is suitable for vulnerable seniors with underlying diseases or who are unvaccinated and have the potential to become seriously ill. We suggest for them to use it as early as possible, ideally within five days from first showing symptoms," said Chen Zhuo, a doctor with Laoximen medical center in Huangpu district. "We will look at data such as liver function indices and blood oxygen saturation to help patients decide whether they need to use the medicine."
As stated on Pfizer's website, the possible side effects of Paxlovid are allergic reactions and liver problems. Other side effects include an altered sense of taste, diarrhea and high blood pressure.
In Beijing, Paxlovid can be prescribed with similar criteria in several community clinics in districts including Chaoyang, Haidian and Dongcheng.
A doctor surname Cui who works at the Jimenli community medical center in Haidian district told China Daily the drugs are available to senior patients over 65 with underlying diseases and unvaccinated seniors over 80. She said it takes patients around half an hour to complete the evaluation and prescription procedure before getting the medicine.
Azvudine, a drug for treating adult COVID-19 patients with moderate symptoms, is currently available at 115 hospitals in Shanghai, as well as at 113 community clinics, Shanghai Observer reported. The price is 270 yuan per bottle and is covered by medical insurance.
The National Medical Products Administration said on Dec 30 that it had granted conditional market approval for the import of Merck's Molnupiravir. With this latest approval, a total of three COVID-19 therapeutic drugs, including Paxlovid and Azvudine, are all available in China.