Game-Changer COVID-19 Pill Out of Reach for Many

Pfizer is moving ahead with its new COVID-19 pill, seeking emergency use authorization in the US and inking a licensing deal to allow 95 lower-income countries access to generic versions of the medication.
 
But: Some key countries are left out of the agreement, NPR reports. Russia, Turkey, Brazil, and Romania—all in the top 11 countries with highest case numbers—are ranked as upper middle-income countries and are not included.

  • 47% of the global population live in countries that aren’t granted access to the lower-cost generic versions of the drug.

 
Lambasted by Médecins Sans Frontières: “The world knows by now that access to COVID-19 medical tools needs to be guaranteed for everyone, everywhere if we really want to control this pandemic,” said Yuanqiong Hu, of MSF’s Access Campaign, in a statement.
 
Why the pill is important: Like Merck’s molnupiravir, the Pfizer drug has been hailed as an important new option in fighting the coronavirus, especially as vaccine access to lower income countries remains limited into next year.
 
Pfizer said its pill, called Paxlovid, dropped hospitalizations by 89% among patients who took the medicine within 3 days of symptoms onset, STAT reports.
 
US buys big: The Biden administration is arranging to pay Pfizer more than $5 billion for 10 million courses of treatment, according to The New York Times.
 
Pfizer officially requested an emergency use authorization from the US FDA yesterday, 2 weeks after it stopped enrolling new participants in its drug trial because of “overwhelming efficacy demonstrated,” Politico reports.
 
It’s unclear how soon the FDA will act on Pfizer’s request, but the agency’s independent advisors will review Merck’s application on Nov. 30.

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