Strategy Note /
China

CN : Strategy - The National Health Commission released the ninth COVID-19 diagnosis and treatment protocol (pilot edition)

    Mark Po
    Mark Po

    Research Analyst

    CGS-CIMB
    25 March 2022
    Published by

    The COVID-19 diagnosis and treatment protocol was updated, and the pilot edition was released on Tuesday. The new protocol is less stringent but the dynamic zero-COVID policy has not been abandoned. People with mild symptoms will be put in quarantine facilities rather than hospitals to allocate medical resources to those with severe symptoms or higher risk. The positive determination standard of RNA testing was lowered, which will ease some pressure on quarantine and hospitalization. Pfizer’s Paxlovid was included in the new protocol as a COVID-19 treatment option. On Thursday, the MPP authorized 35 pharmaceutical companies to manufacture API or preparations of nirmatrilvir, a component of Paxlovid to supply to 95 low- and middle-income countries. Five are Chinese companies: Shanghai Desano, Huahaipharm [600521.SH], Apeloa [000739.SZ], Fosun Pharma [02196.HK, 2196.HK], and Jiuzhou Pharmaceutical [603456.SH]. Another component of Paxlovid is ritonavir. Ascletis Pharmaceuticals [1672.HK] is the only domestic company that passed the bioequivalence test of its generic ritonavir tablets and was authorized by the NMPA to supply generic ritonavir tablets in China in Sep 2021. Some domestic companies also have in-house COVID-19 oral-administrated small molecular drug pipelines, which were discussed in our previous report: “NMPA authorizes the conditional use of Pfizer’s oral antiviral for the treatment of COVID-19”. One update is that the Phase I clinical study results for the VV116 tablet from Junshi Biosciences [1877.HK] was published in Acta Pharmacologica Signica. The results indicated that VV116 showed satisfactory safety and tolerability in healthy subjects, with rapid oral absorption. The amubarvimab/romlusevimab combination from Briibio [2137.HK] was the first domestic COVID-19 treatment approved by the NMPA, in Dec 2021, and was added to the protocol. As the neutralizing antibody is intravenous and the manufacturing process is more complicated and expensive, we think it may be less competitive than the tablets. Antigen testing was added to the new protocol as a supplementary COVID-19 detection measure. Twelve antigen detection kits were approved. Several provinces’ centralized procurement platforms issued procurement tenders. Opinions in this report were contributed by Dr. Yolanda YIN