Hong Kong customs has arrested two men for allegedly smuggling about 2,100 boxes, or more than 74,000 pills used to treat Covid-19, with an estimated value of about HK$7 million (US$894,054), into the city from India. Customs officials on Friday said the bust was the largest at the Hong Kong airport since 2020 and that the medicine would be sent to the government laboratory for analysis. The two men, arriving in Hong Kong from Kolkata on Thursday, were charged with importing prohibited articles without a licence and possession of a Part One poison. They will appear at the Kowloon City Magistrates’ Courts on Saturday. “The two arrested men claimed to be garment merchants. We do not rule out that the two men used this identity as a disguise to engage in drug smuggling,” Customs and Excise Department’s Inspector Hong Yan told the media on Friday. “The investigation is ongoing, and the likelihood of further arrests has not been ruled out.” Customs said three different brands of pills were impounded. They were Molnupiravir, which is used by Hong Kong health authorities to treat Covid-19 patients. The others were Paxista and Primovir, both Indian generic versions of Pfizer-produced Paxlovid. Molnupiravir and Paxlovid are available at seven government-owned clinics dedicated to Covid-19 patients. Authorities have also authorised some private clinics to prescribe the drugs. But patients will be able to obtain prescriptions for the two Covid-19 drugs at all 70 government outpatient clinics from January 30. Hong Kong customs seizes HK$600,000 worth of Covid medicine ‘intended’ for mainland Recently, customs officials have ramped up checks at all control points to stop people smuggling medicines to treat Covid-19 and related symptoms, seizing more than HK$10 million worth of controlled drugs over the past six weeks. Most of the medicines were believed to be headed to Macau and mainland China, where a spike in infections late last month sparked a scramble for drugs. More than a dozen parcels, mostly from European countries, such as Germany and France, were found to contain medicines, including Paxlovid, the Customs and Excise Department added. Paxlovid is priced at 2,980 yuan (US$439) per box, according to mainland online portal Tencent News. A pack of Indian generic drugs can be bought for 530 to 1,600 yuan, even though they have not been approved by the Chinese government, and their sale is illegal. Hong Kong drug suppliers find own cure for coronavirus medicine shortage after appeal According to the Pharmacy and Poisons Ordinance, anyone who illegally possesses substances listed under Part One of Hong Kong’s Poisons List or unregistered pharmaceutical products faces a maximum fine of HK$100,000 and up to two years’ imprisonment. Importing controlled drugs is punishable by a fine of up to HK$500,000 and two years in jail. Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s consumer watchdog found a retailer was selling a 30-tablet box of Panadol Extra Advance for HK$298 in a survey of about 40 bricks-and-mortar shops on Monday, three times the highest price offered by online retailers. When Covid-19 infections surged in Hong Kong and mainland China last month, pharmacies in the city were accused of jacking up prices of certain brands of paracetamol-based painkillers that ran low on stock across the city. Consumer Council chief executive Gilly Wong Fung-han said when they conducted the survey on Monday that many retailers had begun to restock the two most sought-after painkiller brands, Panadol and Fortune Fortolin. Hongkongers stock up on diarrhoea medicine amid fears of Omicron subvariant According to the citywide check, storefront pharmacies were asking HK$85 to HK$298 for a 30-tablet box of Panadol Extra Advance, while online retailers charged about HK$70 to HK$95. “There is in fact an abundant supply of painkillers on the market. There is absolutely no need for consumers to stockpile large quantities or pay hefty prices for them,” Wong said. The Consumer Council has received 20 complaints about pain and fever relief drugs, half of which involved delivery delays, since December last year. The watchdog has also launched a search tool on its website for consumers to find out whether the paracetamol-based products they buy is among the 684 over-the-counter medicines registered with the Department of Health.