Pfizer makes 6m oral COVID treatments available to lower income countries

By Ben Hargreaves

- Last updated on GMT

© Kira-Yan / Getty Images
© Kira-Yan / Getty Images

Related tags Paxlovid COVID-19 Pfizer

The treatments will be provided to The Global Fund, which will allow 132 countries to receive the oral COVID-19 treatment, Paxlovid.

Pfizer noted that it expects supply to be available starting this year to low- and middle-income countries that work with the Global Fund.

The treatments will not be offered for free, but instead through a ‘tiered pricing approach’, which will see low- and lower-middle-income countries pay a not-for-profit price. However, countries that are judged upper-middle-income will be expected to pay a price as defined by Pfizer’s tiered pricing approach.

The receipt of the treatments will be subject regulatory approval or authorization of Paxlovid (nirmatrelvir [PF-07321332] tablets and ritonavir tablets).

Nirmatrelvir functions by blocking the activity of Mpro, an enzyme that the coronavirus needs to replicate. Ritonavir is combined as part of the treatment to slow the breakdown of nirmatrelvir, in order for it to be effective in the body for longer periods.

Research emerging earlier this year​ found that Paxlovid was effective against the omicron variant of COVID-19, with the company stating that it expected the treatment to “retain its activity across coronaviruses, as well as current variants of concern.”

According to the Global Fund, the organization is monitoring developments from generic manufacturers to further improve access to antivirals for vulnerable populations in low- and middle-income countries.

Global Fund noted that due to the recommendation to deliver Paxlovid within five days of symptom onset that access to early testing and diagnosis in those countries must also be improved.

In March​, Pfizer had agreed a similar arrangement, with four million courses of treatment being provided to UNICEF. At the time, the company had estimated that it would produce around 120 million Paxlovid treatments by the end of 2022.

As part of this arrangement, Pfizer engaged in a voluntary licensing agreement with Medicines Patent Pool to enable the development and distribution of generic versions of Paxlovid.

The latter organization has sublicensed the ability to manufacture generic Paxlovid to 38 manufacturers. The treatment courses created by these manufacturers are expected to be available by the fourth quarter of this year.

Previously​, Pfizer had opened access to its current and future portfolio of patented medicines to 45 low-income countries, which includes biologic medicines and vaccines.

However, at the time, the decision was criticized by The People’s Vaccine, which noted that the move represented ‘gate-keeping’ of access to the medicines and vaccines. The comments went further to suggest that the decision had been taken prior to a discussion on intellectual property by the World Trade Organization concerning pharma and access to COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.

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