Pfizer has struck a deal to allow the production and distribution of a generic version of its COVID-19 treatment pill. Early November clinical trial results suggest the pill slashes risks of hospitalization and even death by 89 per cent among at-risk adults.
A deal struck between vaccine manufacturer Pfizer and UN-backed not-for-profit organisations Medicines Patent Pool could spell good news for developing nations. The deal will allow certain developing nations to make and supply a generic version of Pfizer’s experimental COVID-19 pill, Paxlovid. Pfizer agreed to waive royalties for nations included within the agreement to “facilitat[e] greater access to the global population”.
Nations covered under the deal are largely located in Africa and Asia.
The news could be significant for lower-income nations struggling with low vaccine access and vaccination rates.
“It’s quite significant that we will be able to provide access to a drug that appears to be effective and has just been developed, to more than 4 billion,” said Medicines Patent Pool’s head of policy, Esteban Burrone.
Pfizer has also recently applied to have Paxlovid granted emergency use authorisation by the US Food and Drug Administration. However, the application is still under review.
As of now, roughly 1 per cent of Pfizer’s vaccine doses have gone to poorer nations.
These changes come only weeks after Merck & Co, a company developing a similar pill they’re calling molnupiravir, applied for emergency use authorisation last month. Merck & Co also established a deal with Medicines Patent Pool to supply a version of their pill across over 100 developing nations.
Doctors Without Borders has criticised Pfizer for excluding countries significantly impacted by COVID-19, such as China and Brazil.
“We are disheartened to see yet another restrictive voluntary license during this pandemic while cases continue to rise in many countries around the world,” said Doctors Without Borders senior legal policy adviser Yuanqiong Hu.
“The world knows by now that access to COVID-19 medical tools need to be guaranteed for everyone, everywhere, if we really want to control this pandemic.”
Still, Pfizer says in a statement that the deal with Medicines Patent Pool could be game-changing.
“Pfizer remains committed to bringing forth scientific breakthroughs to help end this pandemic for all people.
We believe oral antiviral treatments can play a vital role in reducing the severity of COVID-19 infections, decreasing the strain on our healthcare system and saving lives.”
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