The pharmaceutical manufacturer Pfizer has partnered with a United Nations-backed nonprofit organization to provide its oral COVID-19 treatment to 95 different countries for minimal cost.
Pfizer announced Monday it signed a licensing agreement with Medicines Patent Pool to produce a pill form of its COVID-19 antiviral treatment medicine, a partnership that will allow the company to provide coronavirus treatments to lower-income countries.
"We believe oral antiviral treatments can play a vital role in reducing the severity of COVID-19 infections, decreasing the strain on our healthcare systems, and saving lives," Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said in a press release. "We must work to ensure that all people — regardless of where they live or their circumstances — have access to these breakthroughs, and we are pleased to be able to work with MPP to further our commitment to equity."
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The agreement will provide MPP, a public health organization supported by the U.N., a royalty-free license that will allow manufacturers around the world to take out a sublicense and produce the medicine without paying licensing fees to Pfizer. The current agreement will allow medicine manufacturers to produce the antiviral treatment in more than 95 countries, including parts of sub-Saharan Africa.
The pill treatment is expected to provide protection from COVID in low-income areas, where vaccines are difficult to acquire due to a lack of healthcare.
The agreement excludes lower-income countries such as Brazil, Cuba, Iraq, and Jamaica for reasons that were not readily available, according to the New York Times. The pill will still be available to those countries, but customers will have to buy it directly from Pfizer at a higher rate than the pills would cost if produced by MPP.
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In November, Pfizer said it would submit data to the Food and Drug Administration regarding its pills, claiming it "significantly reduced hospitalization and death" in trials.
Pfizer is not the only one attempting to produce a pill version of the COVID-19 treatment, with biopharmaceutical manufacturer Merck seeking emergency approval from the FDA for its own coronavirus pill treatment.