Pfizer has signed an agreement with the United Nations-backed Medicines Patent Pool to license its new experimental Covid-19 pill to generic companies that can supply it to 95 low- and middle-income countries. The move is similar to what Merck has done previously.
According to Bloomberg, Pfizer's license will cover countries that make up about 53% of the world's population. For the length of time that Covid is declared a public health emergency, Pfizer won't get royalties from sales in middle-income countries, and for low-income countries, Pfizer won't get royalties at all. The pact also includes some upper-middle income countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the report says.
"Numerous generic countries can cheaply produce" Pfizer's pills, Bloomberg wrote, adding that Pfzier has been under "considerable pressure" to license the technology since its positive clinical-trial results earlier in November. The pill reduced hospitalizations and deaths from Covid by 89% in a study of high-risk patients.
The drug company is now seeking emergency authorization from the FDA in the U.S.
Charles Gore, executive director of the Medicines Patent Pool, said: “These are potentially life-saving drugs. The sooner we can get it out there, the more people who won’t need to go to the hospital and won’t die.”
“As with molnupiravir [Merck's drug], we’re trying to make this as fast as humanly possible,” he continued.
Pfizer shares were slightly lower in Tuesday morning pre-market trading, but Pfizer is surely happy with the outcome as it will eliminate much of the political pressure the company is facing to make its drugs cheaper and more accessible to poor countries. Or, perhaps, Pfizer knows that its pill can and will eventually be easily duplicated if they don't "lock up" distribution to a majority of the globe.
Still, keep your eyes on how long Covid is declared a "public health emergency".