Nov 16, 2021
By Jane Brown
A deal has been announced by Pfizer to allow its promising COVID-19 pill to be made and sold inexpensively in 95 poorer nations that are home to more than half of the world’s population.
The agreement follows a similar arrangement negotiated by Merck last month, and together the deals have the potential to vastly expand global production of two simple anti-viral pills that could alter the course of the pandemic by preventing severe illness from the coronavirus.
“The fact that we now have two manufacturer-anywhere licenses for these two drugs is a big change, and it draws a big contrast with the restrictive licensing so far for vaccines,” said James Love, who leads Knowledge Ecology International, a nonprofit that researches access to medical products.
Under the agreement, Pfizer will grant a royalty-free license for the pill to the Medicines Patent Pool, a nonprofit backed by the United Nations, in a deal that will allow manufacturers to take out a sublicense. They will receive Pfizer’s formula for the drug, and be able to sell it for use in 95 developing countries, mostly in Africa and Asia, once regulators authorize the drug in those places.
The organization reached a similar deal with Merck for its Covid antiviral pill, molnupiravir, to be made and sold inexpensively in 105 poorer countries.
Pfizer researchers said earlier this month that its COVID-19 pill reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by 89 percent, in a clinical trial that tested the drug in adults with the disease who were also in high-risk health groups.