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Pfizer to allow generic COVID-19 pill production for low-income countries

By Megan Hadley
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Pfizer to allow generic COVID-19 pill production for low-income countries
Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer, said he believes the antiviral pills can help end the COVID-19 pandemic.  File Photo by Alex Edelman/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 16 (UPI) -- Pfizer and the Medicines Patent Pool signed an agreement Tuesday that allows an antiviral pill to treat COVID-19 to be more widely distributed in low-income countries.

Studies have shown the pill, Paxlovid, given with an older drug called ritonavir, to be 89% effective in reducing COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations in high-risk patients.

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The agreement will enable the United Nations-backed MPP to distribute the pill (pending authorization) by granting licenses for generic production.

The deal aims to make the pill available in the some of the poorest countries, which make up about 53% of the world's population.

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"Pfizer remains committed to bringing forth scientific breakthroughs to help end this pandemic for all people. We believe oral antiviral treatments can play a vital role in reducing the severity of COVID-19 infections, decreasing the strain on our healthcare systems and saving lives," Albert Bourla, Pfizer Chairman and Chief Executive Officer said in a press release.

The agreement includes low- and middle-income countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, as well as countries that have transitioned to upper middle income within the past five years.

Pfizer said it will not claim royalties on the licenses for the pill.

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"Pfizer will not receive royalties on sales in low-income countries and will further waive royalties on sales in all countries covered by the agreement while COVID-19 remains classified as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern by the World Health Organization," the company said.

Charles Gore, executive director of MPP, said the group also has a license to produce the generic ritonavir, an HIV drug.

"We will be working with generic companies to ensure there is enough supply for both COVID-19 and HIV," Gore said in the press release announcing the deal.

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Pfizer has requested emergency use authorization for Paxlovid, which it developed with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, from the Food and Drug Administration. If authorized, it would be the first COVID-19 treatment tablet on the market.

Merck has also developed a coronavirus treatment drug, molnupiravir, which is also under federal review.

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