Pfizer Picks China Firm Involved in Drug Recall for Covid Pill

Pfizer Inc. has picked a Chinese drug-making giant once embroiled in a global medicines recall for supplying tainted ingredients to make its Covid-19 antiviral pill in the country.

Zhejiang Huahai Pharmaceutical Co. will produce and sell Paxlovid in mainland China for five years, the companies said Thursday in separate statements. 

Pfizer will provide ingredients to make nirmatrelvir, the antiviral portion of the drug, and ritonavir, which slows the antiviral’s breakdown in the body. Huahai will manufacture and combine the two into Paxlovid. 

Based in eastern China, Huahai is one of the nation’s biggest makers of pharmaceutical ingredients and generic drugs.

 In 2018, a likely carcinogen called NDMA was found in ingredients that the company manufactured and used in medicines to treat high blood pressure. 

This led to a global recall of some affected drugs -- including valsartan, irbesartan and losartan -- made by at least 10 companies.

The US Food and Drug Administration subsequently banned drugs made at one of Huahai’s factories, and the European Medicines Agency prohibited the firm from sending the blood pressure drugs to companies in the European Union.