AP

Pfizer signs on to let other companies make its experimental COVID-19 pill

Nov 16, 2021, 5:43 AM
Pfizer vaccine. Photo: Canva...
Pfizer vaccine. Photo: Canva

LONDON (AP) — Drugmaker Pfizer Inc. has signed a deal with a U.N.-backed group to allow other manufacturers to make its experimental COVID-19 pill, a move that could make the treatment available to more than half of the world’s population.

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

The deal excludes some large countries that have suffered devastating coronavirus outbreaks. For example, while a Brazilian drug company could get a license to make the pill for export to other countries, the medicine could not be made generically for use in Brazil.

Still, health officials said the fact that the deal was struck even before Pfizer’s pill has been authorized anywhere, could help to end the pandemic quicker.

“It’s quite significant that we will be able to provide access to a drug that appears to be effective and has just been developed, to more than 4 billion people,” Esteban Burrone, head of policy at the Medicines Patent Pool, said.

He estimated that other drugmakers would be able to start producing the pill within months, but acknowledged the agreement wouldn’t please everyone.

“We try to strike a very delicate balance between the interests of the (company), the sustainability required by generic producers and most importantly, the public health needs in lower and middle-income countries,” Burrone said.

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

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

Pfizer said it would ask the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other regulators to authorize the pill as soon as possible,

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

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

Doctors Without Borders said it was “disheartened” that the Pfizer deal does not make the drug available to the entire world, noting that the agreement announced Tuesday also excludes countries including China, Argentina and Thailand.

“The world knows by now that access to COVID-19 medical tools needs 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.

The decisions by Pfizer and Merck to share their COVID-19 drug patents stands in stark contrast to the refusal of Pfizer and other vaccine-makers to release their vaccine recipes for wider production. A hub set up by the World Health Organization in South Africa intended to share messenger RNA vaccine recipes and technologies has not enticed a single pharmaceutical to join.

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

Today’s Top Stories

AP

A hiring sign...
PAUL WISEMAN AP Economics Writer

Local economist says ‘great jobs report’ showed US employers added 528,000 jobs

Friday's jobs report comes at a critical moment for President Biden, who has maintained that the economy is slowing down, not heading into a recession.
3 days ago
Gabby Petitio Foundation donates $100,000 to the National Domestic Hotline...
BOBBY CAINA CALVAN Associated Press

Gabby Petito’s legacy: $100K for domestic violence hotline

The mother of Gabby Petito is keeping the memory of her murdered daughter alive by speaking out on behalf of domestic abuse survivors.
4 days ago
Jon Steward, center, walks with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of N.Y., left, and Sen. Richar...
KEVIN FREKING Associated Press

Senate approves bill to aid vets exposed to toxic burn pits

The bill has been a years-long effort begun by veterans and their families who viewed the burn pits used in Iraq and Afghanistan as responsible for respiratory problems and other illnesses the veterans experienced after returning home.
5 days ago
Nancy pelosi is pictured...
HUIZHONG WU and EILEEN NG Associated Press

US House Speaker Pelosi arrives in Taiwan, defying Beijing

Pelosi's visit has triggered increased tension between China and the United States. China claims Taiwan as part of its territory.
6 days ago
Strike on al Qaeda leader...
The Associated Press

Watching al-Qaida chief’s ‘pattern of life’ key to his death

WASHINGTON (AP) — As the sun was rising in Kabul on Sunday, two Hellfire missiles fired by a U.S. drone ended Ayman al-Zawahri’s decade-long reign as the leader of al-Qaida. The seeds of the audacious counterterrorism operation had been planted over many months. U.S. officials had built a scale model of the safe house where al-Zawahri had […]
7 days ago
In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Infrastructure Ministry Press Office, the Razoni cargo ship...
SUSIE BLANN and SUZAN FRASER Associated Press

1st ship carrying Ukrainian grain leaves the port of Odesa

In an interview with Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar warned that the global food crisis threatens to trigger "a serious wave of migration from Africa to Europe and to Turkey."
7 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Pfizer signs on to let other companies make its experimental COVID-19 pill