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Pfizer Signs Deal To Share Its Covid Antiviral Pill With Low Income Nations

Published 6 months ago
By Forbes
Albert Bourla, chief executive officer of Pfizer Inc. Photographer: Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg via Getty Images

On Tuesday, the United Nations-backed Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) announced that it has signed a deal with Pfizer to provide voluntary licensing of its antiviral treatment Paxlovid. This will enable the MPP to coordinate manufacturing and distribution of the drug around the world. 

Under the terms of the agreement, MPP will coordinate with qualified manufacturers of generic drugs around the world to inexpensively produce Paxlovid in 95 low and middle income countries around the world, reaching over 50% of the global population. Pfizer will not receive any royalties from sales until the World Health Organization determines the pandemic comes to an end. 

“This license is so important because, if authorized or approved, this oral drug is particularly well-suited for low- and middle-income countries and could play a critical role in saving lives, contributing to global efforts to fight the current pandemic,” MPP executive director Charles Gore said in a statement. 

Earlier this month, the two companies announced that Paxlovid, which is a combination of a Covid-specific antiviral agent and ritonavir, an antiviral used to treat HIV infections, has produced positive results in clinical trials. Those preliminary finds indicated that the Covid treatment reduced risk of hospitalization or death by 89% if administered shortly after a positive test. The companies have sent their findings to regulators for emergency authorization. 

Pfizer’s Covid antiviral is a protease inhibitor, a type of antiviral medication that works by slowing down the rate the coronavirus replicates by stopping certain proteins from being made. This keeps viral loads in patients low, which gives the immune system more opportunity to deal with it. It’s co-adminsitered with ritonavir, which helps slow the rate the Covid antiviral breaks down in the body, allowing its activity to last longer.  

In signing this deal, Pfizer is following in the footsteps of Merck, which inked a deal with MPP last month to provide a similar voluntary licensing deal for its anti-Covid pill molnupiravir, which it co-developed with Ridgeback Therapeutics and was recently authorized in the U.K. In September, Pfizer and its vaccine development partner BIoNTech signed a deal with the Biden Administration for 500 million vaccine doses to be provided to lower income countries, with those doses being sold on a not-for-profit basis. 

“Pfizer remains committed to bringing forth scientific breakthroughs to help end this pandemic for all people,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement. “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.”

By Alex Knapp, Forbes Africa

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