WHO asks Pfizer to make drug against COVID more accessible

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called on Pfizer to expand the availability of its COVID-19 drug in poorer countries, saying Tuesday that the drugmaker’s deal that allows manufacturers of generics to manufacture the medicine is insufficient.

The WHO director also told a news conference that Pfizer’s drug was still too expensive. He commented that most Latin American countries did not have access to the drug Paxlovid, which has been shown to reduce the risk of hospitalization or death from COVID-19 by up to 90%.

“We remain concerned that low- and middle-income countries continue to lack access to antivirals,” Tedros said.

He warned that the unequal distribution of COVID-19 drugs could be similar to the grossly disproportionate distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

For example, while countries like Great Britain have vaccinated more than 70% of their population, less than 16% of people in poor countries have received a single dose.

Pfizer signed an agreement with the UN-backed Medicines Patent Pool in November to allow other drugmakers to make generic copies of its pill, for use in 95 nations. Some of the most populous countries that suffered devastating outbreaks of COVID-19, such as Brazil, were not included.

Tedros said the deal is not enough, calling on Pfizer to lift its geographic restrictions on where the generic version of Paxlovid can be used, as well as make the drug less expensive for developing countries.

The United States paid about $500 for each course of Pfizer’s treatment, which consists of three pills taken twice a day for five days. Pricing in developing countries is yet to be confirmed.

WHO chief scientific officer Dr Soumya Swaminathan said most of the world’s supply of Pfizer’s drug had already been reserved by rich countries, similar to how they hoarded most of the world’s COVID-19 vaccines. last year.

He praised Pfizer’s agreement to let other drugmakers make its drug, but said production won’t start until next year. Swaminathan also called on Pfizer to drop the requirement that some developing countries take product responsibility in the event of a problem after it has been distributed.

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