Pharma giant Pfizer and UN-backed international public health group Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) on Tuesday struck a licensing agreement over Pfizer’s COVID-19 pill. The agreement will allow MPP to grant sub-licenses to qualified generic drug manufacturers across the world to make their own versions of the Covid pill. Pfizer will sell the pills it manufactures under the brand name Paxlovid.
Pfizer already makes one of the most widely used COVID-19 vaccines. The company said that the Covid pill has cut the chance of hospitalisation or death for adults at risk of severe disease by 89% in its clinical trial. The drug will be used in combination with ritonavir, an HIV drug that is already available generically.
Pfizer’s licensing deal follows a similar arrangement by rival Merck & Co for generic manufacturing of its COVID-19 treatment. The deals are unusual arrangements that acknowledge the dire need for effective treatments as well as the pressure drugmakers are under to make their life-saving drugs accessible at very low costs.
“We are extremely pleased to have another weapon in our armoury to protect people from the ravages of COVID-19,” Charles Gore, Executive Director of the Medicines Patent Pool, said in an interview.
Gore said he hoped the generic version of Pfizer’s drug will be available within months.
The 95 countries in the license agreement cover around 53% of the world’s population and include all low- and lower-middle-income countries and some upper-middle-income countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. They also include countries that have transitioned from lower-middle to upper-middle-income status in the past five years, Pfizer and the MPP said.
Pfizer will waive royalties on sales in low-income countries. It will also waive them in the other countries covered by the agreement as long as COVID-19 remains classified as a public health emergency of international concern by the World Health Organization.
Pfizer’s version of the drug will be in high demand. The company has said it expects to manufacture 180,000 treatment courses by the end of next month and at least 50 million courses by the end of 2022.