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Pfizer to supply 4 million Covid antiviral treatments to poorer nations through UNICEF

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Paxlovid, a Pfizer’s coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pill, is seen manufactured in Ascoli, Italy, in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters on November 16, 2021.
Pfizer | Handout | via Reuters

Pfizer will supply up to 4 million courses of its oral Covid-19 treatment to dozens of poorer nations under an agreement with the United Nations Children’s Fund, the company announced on Tuesday.

Pfizer expects to start starting supplying the antiviral pills, Paxlovid, to UNICEF starting next month and will continue to do so through the end of the year, according to the company. Low-income nations will receive the pills at a not-for-profit price, while upper-middle-income nations will pay more under a tiered pricing system, according to Pfizer.

Pfizer would not disclose the financial terms of the agreement when asked by CNBC.

Pfizer has licensed Paxlovid through the Medicines Patent Pool, a U.N.-backed public health organization, which will allow other companies to produce a generic, low-cost version of the Covid treatment to boost supply in lower-income nations throughout the world. So far 35 companies in 12 nations across Latin America, the Middle East as well as South and East Asia have signed agreements to either produce the raw ingredients or the finished drug.

The agreement with UNICEF will supply Paxlovid to the same 95 low and middle-income nations targeted by the licensing agreement. The goal is to provide short-term access to the oral antiviral treatment as companies get the generic manufacturing up and running, according to Pfizer.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized Paxlovid on an emergency basis in December for people 12 years of age and older. Paxlovid was 89% effective at preventing hospitalization in those at high risk of severe Covid in clinical trials.

Pfizer expects $22 billion in sales for Paxlovid in 2022 based on deals already signed or close to finalization. The drugmaker has agreed to supply 20 million courses of Paxlovid to the U.S. government through September of this year.

Paxlovid is administered as soon as possible after a Covid-19 diagnosis in a three tablet course twice daily for five days. Patients take two nirmatrelvir pills, developed by Pfizer, with one tablet of ritonavir, a widely used HIV drug. Nirmatrelvir inhibits an enzyme the virus needs to replicate, while ritonavir slows the patients’ metabolism to allow the drug to remain active in the body for longer.

While Pfizer is widely licensing Paxlovid for generic manufacturing, the drugmaker has not done the same for its Covid vaccine. Oxfam America has called on shareholders at the company’s annual meeting to support a feasibility study on transferring the technology underlying the vaccine to developing nations.

Pfizer’s board has called on shareholder’s to vote against the proposal, arguing that the technology underlying the vaccine is complex and requires a high-level proficiency to maintain the quality of the shots. Pfizer aims to supply 2 billion vaccine doses to poorer nations by the end of 2022.

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