Chinese anti-malarial drug no big profit-earner

Beijing, Oct 23 (IANS) The anti-malarial compound Artemisinin, the discovery of which won Tu Youyou China’s first Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine this year, has not resulted in big profits for Chinese pharmaceutical companies.

Guilin Pharma Limited, affiliated with Shanghai-listed Fosun Pharma, is the only Chinese firm on the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) list of recommended providers of the anti-malarial drug, which is extracted from a Chinese herb, Xinhua news agency reported.

With the exception of Guilin Pharma Limited, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) producers are still barred from sending their products to the international market because they lack certification by international agencies such as the WHO’s PQ, the US’s FDA and the EU’s EMA.

Chen Qiyu, chairman of Fosun Pharma, said on Friday that China has 80 percent of the world’s materials for extracting Artemisinin.

However, most TCM producers can only sell the raw materials to foreign companies for marginal profits, as their own Artemisinin-containing products may not directly enter the global market.

Guilin Pharma Limited has sold 23.8 million doses of Artemisinin to the global market over the past three years.

Fang Shuting, president of the China Association of TCM, said on Sunday that although Tu’s nobel award helps promote TCM globally, more efforts are needed to improve the management of pharmaceutical firms and quality of medicinal herbs in China.

According to Fang, nearly 1,600 of more than 4,000 pharmaceutical companies in China are traditional medicine firms, most of which are low-tech and poorly managed.

Fosun chairman Chen said Chinese pharmaceutical companies should learn to play by international rules to raise the products’ value.

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