Oral treatment could reach 95 countries
In a move that could help immensely in the worldwide efforts to contain COVID-19, Pfizer is making its treatment pill available to other manufacturers. The intellectual property agreement lets manufacturers make a generic version of the Pfizer pill, which decreased rates of hospitalization and death in high-risk adults by almost 90% in clinical trials. The Medicines Patent Pool license will make the pill available in up to 95 countries accounting for 53% of the world’s population.
“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, told the Associated Press.
In addition to the Pfizer pill, Merck also has a deal with the Medicines Patent Pool to make its COVID treatment pill, molnupiravir, available in 105 countries.
As long as COVID remains a public health emergency, Pfizer has agreed to waive royalties on sales in the 95 countries covered by the agreement. Pfizer and other pharmaceutical companies have steadfastly resisted efforts to make their COVID vaccines available for widespread generic production.
“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.
As is often the case with measures like this, it has the potential for a lot of good but could also go much further. Doctors Without Borders said the exclusion of large portions of the world from the agreement is “disheartening” and Oxfam America questioned why the Pfizer pill can be available in poorer countries but the Pfizer vaccine is not.
Still, in a matter of months, generic versions of the Pfizer pill will ship to dozens of countries with vulnerable populations, marking a big step in the global fight against COVID.