Pfizer agrees to let other companies make its COVID-19 pill

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Drugmaker Pfizer Inc. has signed a deal with a United Nations-backed group to allow other manufacturers to make its own experimental COVID-19 pill.

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LONDON — Drugmaker Pfizer Inc. has signed a deal with a United Nations-backed group to allow other manufacturers to make its own experimental COVID-19 pill, a move that could make the treatment available for more than half the world’s population. Is.

In a statement released Tuesday, Pfizer said it would license the antiviral pill to the Geneva-based Medicines Patent Pool, which would let generic drug companies produce the pill for use in 95 countries, which make up about 53% of the world’s population. . ,

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Esteban Buron, Head of Policy at Medicines Patent Pool, said, “It is quite important that we will be able to provide access to a drug that appears to be effective and that has just been developed, to more than 4 billion people. “

He speculated that other drugmakers would be able to begin production of the pill within months, but acknowledged that the settlement would not please everyone.

“We try to strike a very delicate balance between (the company’s) interests, the stability needed by ordinary producers and, most importantly, the public health needs in low- and middle-income countries,” Buron said.

Under the terms of the agreement, Pfizer will not receive royalties on sales in low-income countries and waive royalties on sales in all countries involved in the agreement, while COVID-19 remains a public health emergency.

Earlier this month, Pfizer said its pill reduces the risk of hospitalization and death by nearly 90% in people with mild to moderate coronavirus infection. Independent experts recommended stopping the study of the company based on its promising results.

Pfizer on Tuesday asked the US Food and Drug Administration to authorize the pill.

Since the pandemic broke out last year, researchers around the world have raced to develop a pill to treat COVID-19 that can be used at home to ease symptoms, speed up recovery and keep people out of hospital. can be taken easily. At the moment, most COVID-19 treatments must be given intravenously or by injection.

Britain authorized Merck’s COVID-19 pill earlier this month, and it is pending approval elsewhere. In a similar deal with Medicines Patent Pool, announced in October, Merck agreed to make its COVID-19 pill, mollupiravir, available to other drugmakers in 105 poor countries.

Yuanqiong Hu, a senior legal policy adviser at Doctors Without Borders, said: “The world knows by now that if we really want to control this pandemic, everyone, everywhere, has guaranteed access to COVID-19 medical equipment.” should be known.”

The decision by Pfizer and Merck to share their COVID-19 drug patents contrasts with Pfizer and other vaccine makers’ refusal to release their vaccine recipes for widespread production. A hub set up in South Africa by the World Health Organization to share messenger RNA vaccine recipes and technologies has not prompted a single drug to get involved.

Less than 1% of Pfizer’s COVID-19 shots have gone to poor countries.

Oxfam America’s Robbie Silverman welcomed Pfizer’s agreement to let other manufacturers produce its COVID antivirals, but said billions would still be left without access, including the company’s vaccine.

“This move also begs the important question: If Pfizer can share data and intellectual property on a drug, why has they so far categorically refused to do so for their COVID vaccine?” Silverman said.

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