China approves first homegrown antiviral pill to combat Covid-19

People queueing to get tested for Covid-19 in Shenzhen, China, on July 22, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) - China approved its first homegrown Covid-19 antiviral, as regulators cleared a medicine from Genuine Biotech that was previously used to treat HIV.

The National Medical Products Administration gave the nod to Azvudine from the Henan-based drug company for adults with normal symptoms under an emergency use authorisation, according to a statement by the agency on Monday (July 25).

The drug will compete with Pfizer's Paxlovid, which was approved in China in February shortly before the country experienced its worst outbreak of the pandemic.

Adding a homemade therapy to the country's existing arsenal of vaccines to fight the virus could help China transition to life beyond Covid Zero.

Liang Wannian, the head of a National Health Commission expert panel, said in April that victory over the virus would require effective vaccines, treatments and mild variants.

Azvudine's clearance comes before a decision on Shanghai Junshi Biosciences Co.'s medicine, which was submitted in May.

The company said its VV116 Covid-19 drug met the primary endpoint of a phase 3 study, though it didn't release detailed data.

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