American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has signed an agreement that will ensure low-cost global access to its anti-Covid pills, which are highly effective in preventing Covid-19 hospitalisations or deaths.
Once the pill has been approved for market use, the voluntary licensing agreement, struck in a deal between Pfizer and the United Nation’s Medicines Patent Pool (MPP), will help in combatting the pandemic more effectively in developing nations, where the access to the coronavirus vaccine is much lower than in developed countries, by facilitating greater access to the drug.
“This license is so important because, if 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,” Charles Gore, Executive Director of MPP, stated in a press release.
The antiviral pills are 89% effective in preventing hospitalisation or death from the coronavirus, according to interim results of clinical trials, and work by reducing the capacity of the virus to replicate and they are easy to administer and present a powerful tool to use alongside vaccines to tackle the pandemic.
Widely available at cheaper price
Pfizer will not receive royalties for sales of the anti-Covid pill, which must be taken within three to five days of the onset of symptoms, in low-income countries, while it will drop royalties in middle-income countries if there is a threat to public health according to the World Health Organisation.
In practice, the licence will result in the drug, named Paxlovid, becoming available at a cheaper price in some 95 countries, accounting for more than half of the world’s population, as the licence allows the production of generic versions of the pill, in turn improving its availability.
“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,” said Albert Bourla, Pfizer’s Chief Executive Officer.
Pfizer and other pharmaceutical companies have been criticised for reaping huge profits by selling vaccines to countries that can afford them, while neglecting developing countries, thus contributing to vaccine inequality between rich and poor countries.
By signing this agreement, Pfizer is building on its “comprehensive strategy to work toward equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines and treatments for all people, particularly those living in the poorest parts of the world.”