Thursday, December 2, 2021

Pfizer wants to enable the production of the Covid pill in 95 developing countries

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Around 95 developing countries will soon be allowed to manufacture and sell Pfizer’s experimental Covid pill under an agreement between the US drug giant and a United Nations-backed drug program.

Pfizer said the pill called Paxlovid – which went through clinical trials in November – reduced the risk of death or hospitalization for high-risk adult patients by up to 89 percent.

The deal struck by Pfizer and the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) on Tuesday could make oral treatment available to more than half the world’s population, despite Brazil being one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic that has not yet given the green light to roll it out.

Most of the countries that have been given permission to use the drug are in Africa and Asia.

“We believe that oral antiviral treatments can play a critical role in reducing the severity of Covid-19 infections, easing the burden on our health systems and saving lives,” said Albert Bourla, chairman and CEO of Pfizer.

“We must work to ensure that all people – regardless of where they live or their circumstances – have access to these breakthroughs, and we are excited to work with MPP to further expand our commitment to justice.”

The voluntary licensing agreement between Pfizer and the MPP will allow the United Nations-backed group to sub-license qualified generic drug makers to manufacture their own versions of the drug.

Pfizer will market the pills it makes under the brand name Paxlovid. Headquartered in New York City, the company said it would waive royalties in all nations included in the agreement, while Covid remains a World Health Organization designated public health emergency.

Critics have argued that the deal doesn’t go far enough to tackle inequalities in access to Covid treatments.

Medical charity Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said it was “discouraged” by the deal, which it believed was restrictive and excluded countries like Argentina and China with established generic manufacturing capabilities.

“The world now knows that if we really want to control this pandemic, there must be access to COVID-19 medical tools everywhere and for everyone,” said Yuanqiong Hu, MSF’s senior legal policy adviser.

The drug is used in combination with ritonavir, an HIV drug that is already available generically.

Pfizer hopes the generic version of the drug will be available in months.

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