Pfizer allowing antiviral COVID-19 pill to be made in poorer nations

Pfizer announced on Tuesday that it is allowing its antiviral COVID-19 pill to be made in poorer nations throughout the world in an effort to help arm them with tools to combat the pandemic.

Pfizer said that under an agreement with the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP), the company will manufacture and supply its effective antiviral pill in 95 countries, including all low-income and lower-middle-income nations. The agreement covers roughly 53 percent of the world’s population.

Some upper-middle-income countries in sub-Saharan Africa and nations that have shifted from lower-middle-income to upper-middle-income status in the past five years are also part of the agreement.

ADVERTISEMENT

The company will not receive royalties for sales in the low-income countries, and it will waive royalties for sales in all the other countries that are under the agreement for as long as the World Health Organization labels COVID-19 a "Public Emergency of International Concern."

Pfizer said earlier this month that an analysis of data from a study showed its antiviral COVID-19 pill cuts the risk of coronavirus hospitalization and death by 89 percent compared to those who received a placebo.

“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 systems and saving lives,” Pfizer Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement on Tuesday.

"We must work to ensure that all people – regardless of where they live or their circumstances – have access to these breakthroughs, and we are pleased to be able to work with MPP to further our commitment to equity,” he added.

Under the deal, MPP, a nonprofit organization that has the support of the United Nations, will receive a royalty-free license for the antiviral pill from Pfizer. That agreement will permit manufacturers to receive a sublicense and the formula for the drug.

The organization will then be able to sell the drug for use in the 95 countries under the agreement once the pill receives authorization to be used in those locations.

Merck, which is also developing a COVID-19 treatment pill, recently announced a similar deal to make and sell its drug in 105 poorer nations, The New York Times noted.