(GENEVA) — Nearly three dozen companies worldwide will soon start making generic versions of Pfizer’s coronavirus pill, the U.N.-backed Medicines Patent Pool that negotiated the deal said Thursday.
The Medicines Patent Pool said in a statement that agreements signed with 35 companies should help make Pfizer’s antiviral nirmatrelvir, or Paxlovoid, available to more than half of the world’s population.
A dozen generic drug producers from Asia, Africa, Middle East, and Eastern Europe will start producing the ingredients or the pills themselves. A license was offered to one Ukrainian company, but it is not confirmed as able.
“This will make an enormous difference for countries.” said Charles Gore, executive director of the Medicines Patent Pool. He said the availability of the Pfizer drug in some of the world’s poorest countries is especially critical. “They have been at the back of the queue for vaccines, so having a treatment like this in the armory will be absolutely critical to prevent deaths.”
Gore suggested that generic drug companies may be ready for approval by regulators later in the year with some stock available as early 2023.
Pfizer’s drug has been found to cut the risk of hospitalization or death in people at risk of severe COVID-19 by up to 90%; it is also thought to be effective against the omicron variant because it does not target the coronavirus’ spike protein, where most of the worrying mutations are.
Although many experts in health welcomed the agreement, they pointed out some gaps. It excludes certain countries like Brazil that suffered from devastating COVID-19 infections. The agreements allow Brazilian firms to manufacture Pfizer pills, while generic versions will be unavailable for purchase.
Pfizer won’t receive any royalties from generic drug companies selling its medicine, as long as coronavirus pandemic is still classified by the World Health Organization as a worldwide health emergency.
Merck was the first to announce a similar agreement with Medicines Patent Pool in January. More than twenty companies were licensed by Merck to produce their COVID pills, molnupiravir.
None of the COVID-19-vaccine manufacturers have yet to agree to cooperate with the group in order to let other companies make their vaccines.
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