Sometimes history reverses its direction in a paradoxical way.
Three years ago the China forbade the export of its immense production of pharmaceutical productsjust when Europe and Italy were overwhelmed with the greatest violence by first wave of Covid19.
In recent weeks, however, the opposite plot is unfolding: for the first time pandemic panic hits China whose citizens, left by the government without protection or preparation, they flock to buy a drug whose basic ingredient is very often produced in Italy and whose use had been thought of for quite different syndromes.
But today in China that made in Italy product is selling like hot cakes in the hope that that product will prove to be the magic medicine against the virus.
What is happening now must therefore be re-read in the light of what happened then, just under three years ago. In the first weeks of the pandemic the Hubeithe Chinese province whose capital Wuhan, announce the closure of a long list of pharmaceutical products for export. For Italy and Europe, then hit by the first wave of the new virus coming from Wuhan, that squeeze sharpened the feeling of panic and impotence. Hubei is the first province of China for production of ingredients and active pharmaceutical ingredients, those that then enter the medicines assembled in Europe. And in the decade up to 2020, the pharmaceutical exports of the People’s Republic had increased to the point of making Europe completely dependent on them. The worldwide turnover of the Chinese pharmaceutical industry had quadrupled to 120 billion dollars a year (according to data from the OECD in Paris). The closure of the export of active ingredients therefore contributes to determining, in cascade, a a shortage of medicines in Europe.
In mid-April 2020, a few weeks after the blockade of Hubei, the Italian Society of Hospital Pharmacy, disseminated a list of eighteen drugs of which – you announce – there was a shortage: among them remdesivir (widely used against Covid) and three antibiotics.
Fast forward to todayand the situation appears curiously opposite.
Faced with protests from the Chinese population after years of lengthening restrictions, Ji Xinping’s regime last December 7 lifted ten fundamental bans. The era of suffocating lockdowns in Chinese megalopolises is over for the moment. But he did it without an adequate vaccination campaign having been carried out, without intensive care having been strengthened and without sufficient availability of drugs to mitigate the impact of the virus.
Also for this reason, since mid-December a drug whose active ingredient is the first producer in the world is an Italian company has been highly sought after in China: the ICE (Emilian Chemical Industry) of Reggio Emiliafounded as a family business in 1949 and sold by the brothers Enzo and Maurizio Bartoli in 2019 to the Advent International investment fund..
The active ingredient on which Ice is particularly strong ursodeoxycholic acid (Udca), indicated for hepatic and biliary syndromes. (Here’s what it is and how it works).CopyAMP code
The surprise of these weeks came from a study published on December 5 in Nature by two researchers from the Stem Cell Institute of Cambridge, Teresa Brevini and Fotios Sampaziotis. The two present some clues that Udca could help prevent Covid infection or make its symptoms milder.
The authors of the study themselves point out why there is no conclusive evidencethat to have confirmations a much more structured clinical study is needed and in any case the drug must not replace vaccination: if anything, it can be accompanied by it.
It does not matter: doctors in China have started prescribing UDCA for their patients, even very healthy ones.
The drug has suddenly become highly sought after by the population. Now gone like hot cakes and the Chinese houses that assemble the active ingredient — Xuantai Pharma and New China Pharma — have seen their shares literally explode on the Shanghai Stock Exchange.
This is what happens when a government, out of pure nationalism, refuses to import the most effective vaccines for Covid only because they derive from western technologies like mRNA.
But of course no one in Italy is thinking of blocking the export of active ingredients to China for this alone.