Nearly 47,000 tablets of the oral anti-Covid medication molnupiravir were among a HK$3 million (US$382,668) haul of pharmaceutical products seized by Hong Kong customs officers, with a law enforcement source saying on Monday that the drugs were bound for mainland China. The source said it was the first seizure of the oral antiviral in the city, with the case coming to authorities’ attention about a week after the first legitimate shipments of the drug, bought by the government, were delivered to Hong Kong last month amid the surging fifth wave of coronavirus infections. According to the Customs and Excise Department, about 10,000 pills of molnupiravir were seized at the airport’s cargo terminal after being sent to the city from India on March 21. The consignment was declared as carrying a gift. Customs officers posing as delivery workers took the goods on March 23 to a unit in a Sheung Shui commercial building, where the consignee for the parcel – a 55-year-old man – was arrested. How do the two Covid-19 oral drugs molnupiravir and Paxlovid work? “Inside the premises, another 37,000 tablets of the oral Covid-19 drug were found, along with 70,000 pills and vials of other pharmaceutical products,” said Senior Investigator Wong Yat-yin of the department’s syndicated crimes investigation bureau. He added that most of the other drugs were controlled pharmaceutical products used to treat heart disease, cancer and depression. “An initial investigation suggested the seized drugs were bound for neighbouring areas,” Wong said, adding that officers were still investigating how long the scheme had been in operation. He noted that the 47,000 tablets of the oral antiviral drug had an estimated street value of HK$500,000 and the other pharmaceutical products were worth about HK$2.5 million. “The samples will be taken to the Department of Health to see whether the ingredients are harmful,” Wong continued, adding that they would also verify with the copyright owners to see if the drugs were genuine. 16,000 Hong Kong patients receive new oral anti-Covid drugs An initial investigation indicated that molnupiravir produced in India was only intended for consumption in that country, he said. The Post has learned that all the seized drugs were bound for the mainland. The suspect was arrested on suspicion of importing pharmaceutical products without a licence – an offence punishable by up to two years in jail and a HK$500,000 fine. He was also detained for possession of controlled drugs without a licence, which carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison and a HK$100,000 fine. The man has been released on bail, pending further investigation. Private Hong Kong clinics ‘should be allowed to prescribe anti-Covid drugs’ On April 1, customs officers at the airport’s cargo terminal intercepted another parcel arriving from India. The parcel contained 900 vials of drugs to treat cancer and was also bound for the same Sheung Shui flat, with the same man listed as the consignee. Wong warned that the two oral anti-Covid-19 drugs registered with local authorities – molnupiravir, by MSD and Pfizer’s Paxlovid – were not available in local retail outlets, saying the public should not buy pharmaceuticals with unknown sources. He added that customs would enhance cooperation with the Department of Health to stop illegally imported pharmaceutical products from circulating in the city.