Pfizer signs deal allowing generics to produce COVID pill

On the 16th of November, Pfizer announced a deal with international public health group Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) that will allow generic drug manufacturers to produce and supply its experimental antiviral COVID-19 pill. The licensing agreement will authorise the MPP to grant sub-licenses to qualified drug companies in 95 low and middle-income countries, giving residents access to affordable life-saving treatment. 

 

Pfizer’s COVID pill 

Pfizer’s COVID-19 pill, known as Paxlovid, is a combination of Pfizer’s experimental antiviral PF-07321332 and a low dose of ritonavir, an antiviral medication usually used to treat HIV. The treatment works by disrupting the replication of SARS-CoV-2 in the body by binding to the 3CL-like protease, which is an enzyme crucial to the virus’ reproduction and function. 

According to Pfizer, late-stage clinical trials showed Paxlovid reduced the chance of hospitalisation and death for adults considered at risk by 89%. To be most effective, patients need to start the treatment in the early stages of infection and follow a 5-day course of 30 pills.  

 

The agreement 

Similar to competitor’s Merck & Co’s recent arrangement, Pfizer’s licensing agreement will grant a royalty-free license for the pill to the MPP. The MPP will receive the formula for the drug and be able to sell it to the 95 countries included in the deal once it has been authorised by regulators in those places. 

The countries in the agreement cover around 53% of the world’s population and include all low and lower-middle-income countries, as well as some upper-middle-income in Sub-Saharan Africa. However, some poorer countries that have been hit hard by the virus, such as Brazil, have not been included and will have to buy the pill directly from Pfizer. 

 

Although the deal isn’t perfect, this agreement alongside the one negotiated by Merck acknowledge the need for effective treatments to be made accessible at very low costs. Together they have the potential to significantly expand global production of these antiviral pills and prevent severe illness from COVID-19. 

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