Chinese herbal pill maker rallies amid new Chinese covid rules

Chinese herbal pill maker rallies amid new Chinese covid rules

Photo: aly song (Reuters)

Beijing’s announcement last Friday (November 11) of slightly revised covid rules spear an optimistic rise in Chinese stocks. One of the biggest gainers has been Shijiazhuang Yiling Pharmaceutical, whose share price has jumped almost 24% since last week.

Yiling Pharmaceutical is the developer and manufacturer of Lianhua Qingwentraditional Chinese medicine tablets that Chinese authorities have claimed to be effective in treating covid, despite the lack of publicly available, peer-reviewed clinical trial data to support this claim.

The main ingredients of the pill, developed in 2003 to treat severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), include Japanese honeysuckle, rhubarb root and the fruit of the forsythia plant. Since, The Chinese Ministry of Health and the National Health Commission recommended Lianhua Qingwen for colds and flu. Jhe the pills are staples in home medicine cabinets (link in Chinese).

The big business of covid herbal pills

According to the official Beijing Business Today newspaper, some pharmacies in the northern city of Shijiazhuang — one of the first to walk away cautiously strict covid rules – were swept away from Lianhua Qingwen supplies, as residents store tablets (link in Chinese).

It makes lucrative business for the Yiling Pharmaceutical, a company headquartered in Hebei Province. Yiling started in 1992 with a pill of herbs and insects marketed as a treatment for heart disease. According to his semestrial reportof the company traditional Chinese cold and flu remedies – including Lianhua Qingwen tablets – now represent 46% of total turnover.

Yilingit is other products are also primarily herbal, such as an herbal capsule that supposedly treats impotence, fatigue and forgetfulnessand another set of pills that claim treat cardiovascular illnesses.

According to company filings, Yiling has received 50 million yuan ($7 million) in government grants to conduct clinical research on Lianhua Qingwen and register it internationally.

Touted in China, warned in Singapore, banned in Australia

While the Chinese health authorities have, since April 2020 (link in Chinese), included Lianhua Qingwen among the recommended treatments for mild cases of covid, there are no published results to date from a randomized clinical trial on the efficacy and safety of these tablets.

In fact, the Singapore health authorities warned earlier this year that there is “no scientific evidence” showing that Lianhua Qingwen can treat or alleviate covid symptoms. Australia banned Lianhua Qingwen because it includes a key ingredient used to make crystal meth or methamphetamine. And the United States Food and Drug Administration has warned sellers against unauthorized sale by Lianhua Qingwen. The son of a Chinese billionaire also questioned the effectiveness by Lianhua Qingwen on Weibo; he was quickly banned from the social media platform.

In Hong Kong, the government has actively promoted the use of Lianghua Qingwen to treat covid. Initially, authorities seemed to stumble when trying to distinguish between supporting Beijing’s zeal for traditional herbal treatments and maintaining the reputation of the city for demanding foods and drug safety standards. In spring, as cases and death rates soarthe city government distributed two boxes of herbal pills to each household—just two weeks after local health authorities urges patients to consult a traditional Chinese doctor before taking the pills.

There is currently an active registered clinical trial underway in Singapore to test Lianhua Qingwen. The trial will determine the pills’ effectiveness in reducing the duration of symptoms in fully vaccinated and mildly covid patients, according to the US government’s Clinical Trials Registry. The study aims to recruit 300 participants and is expected to be completed by the end of 2023.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.