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Pfizer COVID Pill to Be Made, Sold Cheaply in 95 Poor Countries

HealthDay News
by Robert Preidt and Robin Foster
Updated: Nov 16th 2021

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TUESDAY, Nov. 16, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- Pfizer Inc. announced Tuesday that it has reached an agreement for its promising COVID-19 antiviral pill to be made and sold cheaply in 95 developing nations.

The countries included in the licensing deal are mostly in Africa and Asia, and they account for more than half of the world's population, the company said in a statement. Pfizer is partnering on the agreement with Medicines Patent Pool (MPP), a United Nations-backed public health organization working to increase access to lifesaving drugs for low- and middle-income countries.

Under the terms of the deal, Pfizer will grant a royalty-free license for the pill to MPP and manufacturers can then take out a sublicense. They will receive Pfizer's formula for the drug, and be able to sell it for use in 95 developing countries after regulators authorize the drug in those places.

"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 health care systems and saving lives," Pfizer chairman and CEO Albert Bourla said in the statement. "We must work to ensure that all people – regardless of where they live or their circumstances – have access to these breakthroughs."

Last month, Merck reached a similar deal for its COVID-19 antiviral pill to be made and sold inexpensively in 105 poorer countries.

"The fact that we now have two manufacturer-anywhere licenses for these two drugs is a big change, and it draws a big contrast with the restrictive licensing so far for vaccines," James Love, head of Knowledge Ecology International, a nonprofit that researches access to medical products, told The New York Times.

"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 the Pfizer statement.

However, both the Pfizer and Merck agreements exclude a number of low- and middle-income nations that have been hit hard by the pandemic, including Brazil, China, Cuba, Iraq, Jamaica, Libya and Russia.

More information

Visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for more on COVID vaccines.

SOURCES: Pfizer, Inc., statement, Nov. 16, 2021; The New York Times