Pfizer Inc and the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP), a United Nations-backed public health organization today today announced the signing of a voluntary license agreement for Pfizer’s Covid-19 oral antiviral treatment, which is administered in combination with low dose ritonavir (PF-07321332; ritonavir)

Medicines Patent Pool is working to increase access to life-saving medicines for low- and middle-income countries.

“The agreement will enable MPP to facilitate additional production and distribution of the investigational antiviral, pending regulatory authorization or approval, by granting sub-licenses to qualified generic medicine manufacturers, with the goal of facilitating greater access to the global population,” Pfizer said in a statement

Pfizer said it would grant a license for the antiviral pill to MPP, which would let generic drug companies produce the pill for use in 95 countries, making up about 53% of the world’s population.

“It’s quite significant that we will be able to provide access to a drug that appears to be effective and has just been developed, to more than 4 billion people,” Esteban Burrone, head of policy at the Medicines Patent Pool, said.

He estimated that other drugmakers would be able to start producing the pill within months, but acknowledged the agreement wouldn’t please everyone.

“We try to strike a very delicate balance between the interests of the (company), the sustainability required by generic producers and most importantly, the public health needs in lower and middle-income countries,” Burrone said.

Under the terms of the agreement, Pfizer will not receive royalties on sales in low-income countries and will waive royalties on sales in all countries covered by the agreement while Covid-19 remains a public health emergency.

Earlier this month, Pfizer said its pill cut the risk of hospitalisation and death by nearly 90% in people with mild to moderate coronavirus infections. Independent experts recommended halting the company’s study based on its promising results.

Pfizer said it would ask the US Food and Drug Administration and other regulators to authorise the pill as soon as possible since the pandemic erupted last year, researchers worldwide have raced to develop a pill to treat Covid-19 that can be taken at home easily to ease symptoms, speed recovery and keep people out of the hospital.

At the moment, most Covid-19 treatments must be delivered intravenously or by injection.

Britain authorised the Merck’s Covid-19 pill earlier this month, and it is pending approval elsewhere. In a similar deal with the Medicines Patent Pool announced in October, Merck agreed to let other drugmakers make its Covid-19 pill, molnupiravir, available in 105 poorer countries.

(With inputs from AP)

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