China on Monday gave conditional approval to domestic firm Genuine Biotech's Azvudine pill to treat certain adult patients with COVID-19, adding another oral treatment option against the coronavirus.
The availability of effective COVID vaccines and treatments is crucial in laying the groundwork for China's potential pivoting from its "dynamic COVID zero" policy, which aims to eliminate every outbreak - however small - and relies on mass testing and strict quarantining.
The Azvudine tablet, which China approved in July last year to treat certain HIV-1 virus infections, has been given a conditional green light to treat adult patients with "normal type" COVID, the National Medical Products Administration said in a statement.
"Normal type" COVID is a term China uses to refer to coronavirus infections where there are signs of pneumonia, but the patients haven't reached a severe stage.
China in February allowed the use of Pfizer's oral treatment Paxlovid in adults with mild-to-moderate COVID and high risk of progressing to a severe condition.
In 2020, it approved the use of Lianhuaqingwen capsules, a traditional Chinese medicine-style formula, to alleviate symptoms of COVID such as fever and cough.
In a late-stage clinical trial, 40.4% of patients taking Azvudine showed improvement in symptoms seven days after first taking the drug, compared with 10.9% in the control group, Henan province-based Genuine Biotech said in a statement earlier this month, without providing detailed readings.
Other Chinese companies developing potential oral COVID treatments include Shanghai Junshi Biosciences and Kintor Pharmaceutical.