Manufacturing News

Medical firms ramping up supply of kits, drugs

Move comes amid surge in respiratory illnesses across nation
Medical product companies are accelerating efforts to increase the supply of diagnostic kits and essential drugs amid rising cases of respiratory illnesses, as local hospitals in China battle to contain the surge.

Data from the Chinese National Influenza Center show that the positivity rate of influenza across China continued to rise from Nov 27 to Dec 3. The country reported 420 influenza outbreaks during the period, compared with 401 for the previous seven days. According to the National Health Commission, by Dec 10, the number of visits to large hospitals by patients, especially children with respiratory illness was gradually falling.

During peak time, while hospital visits to treat respiratory infections among adults and children have spiked, those suffering from moderate to mild symptoms prefer self-diagnosis and treatment at home.

On e-commerce delivery platforms, "type A influenza diagnostic kits" and "pneumonia-related diagnostic kits" have been selling fast.

"This type of diagnostic kit is currently out of stock. We are speaking with the manufacturer for more stocks," said a pharmacy owner surnamed Li who operates several pharmacies in Beijing.

However, other merchants said though there has been rising demand for such kits, supplies are currently sufficient.

These kits target several viruses — type A influenza virus, type B influenza virus, mycoplasma pneumonia virus and adenovirus.

Some manufacturers have even launched triple test kits to diagnose cross-infections of various respiratory diseases. They detect and report the results for three viruses simultaneously, within eight to 15 minutes, from a single sample. Prices of such kits range from 20 yuan ($2.8) to 70 yuan.

In order to win the trust of consumers, several merchants have also uploaded product test reports and other related documents online.

BGI Genomics, an integrated solutions provider of precision medicine based in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, said demand for respiratory tract specimen testing has increased amid the ongoing influenza outbreak.

The point-of-care testing-based polymerase chain reaction technique detects 18 types of respiratory microbes, including type A and type B influenza viruses, adenovirus, rhinovirus, respiratory syncytial virus and others, all at once.

A result can be obtained in 90 minutes, which is suitable for outpatients as well as emergency patients.

The high-throughput sequencing genetic testing solutions not only detect infection pathogens, but identify key drug resistance genes and virulence genes, suitable for inpatients and critical patients.

"During the pandemic period, we ramped up production capacity, supply chains, logistics and laboratory testing in order to supply diagnostic products, equipment and other medical care to infected areas on time," said Yuan Ke, clinical research manager at BGI Genomics.

Medicines in demand

Demand for cold medicines has also skyrocketed.

"There is high incidence of influenza, and many citizens with increased awareness about self-protection are actively purchasing various cold medicines for emergencies. Sales of cough, cold and anti-fever medicines have surged, and some drugs are out of stock," said a shop assistant at a branch of Nepstar Chain Drugstore Ltd in Beijing.

Data from Guangzhou-based online pharmacy 111 Inc showed that from early November, the Nasdaq-listed company's B2B online platform had witnessed a spurt in sales of anti-infective, cough and phlegm relief, antipyretics and analgesics, as well as cold medicines.

In November, sales of its anti-infection drugs increased by 63 percent month-on-month, while that of cough and phlegm relieving, antipyretic and analgesic, and cold medicines surged 38 percent, 23 percent and 37 percent, respectively, on a monthly basis.

Meanwhile, on 111 Inc's B2C e-commerce platform, sales of anti-flu medicine Oseltamivir have also gone up.

Overall sales of the medicine in November went up nearly fivefold compared to that in October, and the daily average sales in November were six times higher than that of October.

Harvey Wang, chief operating officer of 111 Inc, said: "Autumn and winter are peak seasons for respiratory diseases. We have made sufficient preparations in advance for drug reserves. Currently, there is no shortage of inventory for the main drugs and the prices are relatively stable."

A-shares of companies in multiple subsectors such as vaccines, drugs, and diagnostic kits have shot up.

According to data from financial service provider Wind Info, the influenza index surged by 10.89 percent from Oct 27 to Nov 27.

Anti-flu concept stocks such as Jiangsu province-based Lianhuan Pharma, Shandong province-based Hualu Group, and Guangdong province-based Xiangxue Pharma were among the top performers, with gains of 35.66 percent, 26.21 percent, and 14.84 percent month-on-month, respectively, between Oct 27 and Nov 27.

Meanwhile, stocks of traditional Chinese medicine companies such as Chongqing-based Taiji, Henan province-based Taloph, Beijing-based CR Double-Crane, and Hebei province-based Yiling Pharmaceutical, also gained significantly, with an average increase of about 20 percent between Oct 27 and Nov 27.

"Judging from cases in the United States and Canada, there has been a large-scale immunity decline in the population in the post-pandemic era, causing various infections to rise one after another," said Lai Yankun, director of the domestic and overseas business department of Beijing-based biomedicine producer SinoCellTech. "In recent years, the infection rates of influenza abroad, such as type A influenza and type B influenza, have been much higher than that before COVID-19."

"If China does not have particularly effective means to restore the immunity of its population on a large scale, the infection situation seen abroad will also occur domestically. Enterprises related to infection should stay prepared," he added.

Xie Zongbo, an independent financial columnist and member of the Caixin Global Young Leaders Forum, said: "People's recovery from infections has made them pay increasing attention to nutrition and rehabilitation, bringing huge growth in related consumption. Nutrition and rehabilitation companies should step up efforts to provide high-quality products and services to meet increased demand. The business opportunities lie not only in the short term, but also in the mid to long run.

"They must learn from this winter's experience and work out a long-term corresponding mechanism to adjust their production capacity and supply more flexibly," he added.

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