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Pfizer to allow other companies make its COVID-19 pill

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Drugmaker Pfizer has signed a deal with a United Nations-backed group to let other manufacturers make its experimental COVID-19 pill.

This is seen as a move that could make the treatment available to more than half of the world’s population coming after similar decision by another pharmaceutical giant, Merck  which has also developed a pill to treat people who come down with COVID-19.

A statement today issued by Pfizer said it would grant a license for its antiviral pill to the Geneva-based Medicines Patent Pool, which would let generic drug companies produce the treatment pill for use in 95 countries, making up about 53% of the world’s population.

The deal excludes some large countries that have suffered devastating COVID-19 outbreaks.

For example, while a Brazilian drug company could get a license to make the pill for export to other countries, the medicine could not be made generically for use in Brazil.

“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 predicted that other drug makers would be able to start producing the pill within months, but acknowledged that 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 per cent in people with mild to moderate coronavirus infections. Independent experts recommended halting the company’s study early based on its promising results.

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