Thursday, June 1, 2023

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Udca, all about the Italian drug that sells like hot cakes in China

Udca, all about the Italian drug that sells like hot cakes in China

In China, the race for a drug for liver-related syndromes based on Udca has started, an active ingredient whose largest producer is located in Emilia Romagna. Doctors are prescribing it to everyone against Covid but here's what a study in Nature says (really). All the details

Udca, short for ursodeoxycholic acid, is the active ingredient of a drug indicated for liver and biliary syndromes. Its first manufacturer in the world, according to Corriere della Sera , is from Reggio Emilia but in China, where there is no shortage of factories to assemble it, it has literally been selling like hot cakes since it also seems to have effects in preventing Covid.


Udca, or ursodeoxycholic acid, is a preparation based on bile acids naturally present in the body, which is able to solubilize cholesterol in the bile.


This medicine, explains the Italian Medicines Agency (Aifa), is used in adults to treat alterations in the production of bile by the liver and to improve the solubility of cholesterol, both to prevent the formation of stones and to facilitate their dissolution .

It is not effective against all types of stones, but only against those not visible on X-rays (radiotransparent); especially, cholesterol stones in the gallbladder and stones in the bile duct. It is also used to treat digestive problems due to gallbladder malfunction (biliary dyspepsia).


The first producer in the world of Udca, according to Corriere , is called Industria Chimica Emiliana (Ice) and is from Reggio Emilia.

Ice, initially a family-run company, was founded by the spouses Walter and Ida Bartoli in 1949 but was then sold by their sons, Enzo and Maurizio, in 2019 to the US investment fund Advent International for 700 million euros. As Enzo Bartoli recounted in a 2019 interview , "at the end of 2018, we made use of the company Pricewaterhouse which organized a sort of offer for an expression of interest in which the Advent International fund participated".

From the interview we also learn that Ice, which started with a turnover of 20 million old lire and 2 employees in 1974, in 2019 had 1,000 in Italy, the USA, Brazil, India, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and had a consolidated balance sheet of approximately 230 million euros.


Bartoli, motivating the decision to interrupt the entrepreneurial activity, already three years ago explained that it was impossible not to take into account the "continuous and important price increases" linked to the raw material "which have had repercussions on the finished product, which is proving to be too expensive for pharmaceutical companies, companies which, in turn, are subjected to price controls by the health organizations of each country which, on the contrary, support policies to reduce them".

“Not least – added Bartoli -, the Chinese competition is starting to make itself felt”. China and India together account for more than 60% of the supply of active pharmaceutical ingredients globally. And the Corriere states that “in the decade up to 2020, pharmaceutical exports from 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)”.


However, asStart wrote two weeks ago, in China, where the demand for medicines is having a surge since the anti-Covid restrictions were lifted and the infections started to spread like wildfire, there was a strong shortage of drugs, with consequences for the whole world.

Now, according to data from the Chinese authorities reported by SkyTg24 , "the production of medicines has accelerated, with drugs such as ibuprofen and paracetamol reaching 190 million tablets a day: five times the amount produced at the beginning of December, when, following the nationwide easing, pharmacies in large urban areas were left without stocks” and “the production of swab kits instead reached 110 million a day, double compared to the beginning of December”.

Meanwhile, China has caved in to conditional importation of Merck's antiviral molnupiravir and the European Union is awaiting a response to its offer to send free doses of mRNA vaccines.


But according to an analysis by Scrip Intelligence , cited by Adnkronos , everyone in China is on the hunt for the UDCA. A study published in early December in Nature by two researchers at the Stem Cell Institute in Cambridge, Teresa Brevini and Fotios Sampaziotis, may have contributed to the latter trend.

Research supports that Udca could be useful for preventing Covid infection or making its symptoms milder. However, the same authors declare that the results observed will have to be confirmed in larger clinical studies and that, in any case, the drug could not replace vaccination.

But the experts' recommendations still haven't stopped Chinese medicine makers from rejoicing. Indeed, as Scrip Intelligence reports, “Xuantai Pharma and New China Pharma have seen share prices soar by between 53% and 69% in the past few weeks.”

This is a machine translation from Italian language of a post published on Start Magazine at the URL on Tue, 03 Jan 2023 15:00:40 +0000.