Pfizer announced a licensing agreement Tuesday to allow other manufacturers to produce its experimental COVID-19 pill to treat people in 95 developing countries – where more than half of the world’s population lives.
The drugmaker said in a statement it signed a deal with a UN-backed group, the Geneva-based Medicines Patent Pool, to let generic drug companies produce its antiviral pill, Paxlovid, which has yet to be authorized, in low- and middle-income nations.
“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.
As part of the deal, Pfizer will not receive royalties on sales in low-income countries and will also waive them on sales in all countries under the agreement as long as COVID-19 remains classified as a public health emergency by the World Health Organization.
The 95 countries included in the deal are primarily in Africa and Asia, while nations like India, Afghanistan and Honduras are on the list as well. But countries like China, Argentina and Thailand are excluded, which disappointed advocacy groups like Doctors Without Borders.
“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,” said Yuanqiong Hu, a senior legal policy adviser at Doctors Without Borders.
But health officials said the deal could help end the pandemic by providing access to the antiviral pill to more than 4 billion people in a matter of months by some estimates.
Pfizer announced earlier this month its pill slashed the risk of hospitalization and death by nearly 90 percent in mild to moderate COVID-19 infections. The drugmaker said it would ask the Food and Drug Administration to approve the treatment as soon as possible.
Merck announced a similar deal with MPP in October, agreeing to let other drug manufacturers make its COVID-19 pill, molnupiravir, available in 105 poorer countries.
Both agreements excluded several poorer countries hit hard by the virus, including Brazil, Iraq, Libya and Jamaica, as well as China and Russia.
The combined deals have the potential to greatly expand global production of the antiviral pills, officials told the New York Times.
“The fact that we now have two manufacturer-anywhere licenses for these two drugs is a big change, and it draws a big contrast to the restrictive licensing so far for vaccines,” James Love, who heads Knowledge Ecology International, which researches access to medical products, told the newspaper.
With Post wires