GENEVA (AP) – Nearly three dozen companies worldwide will soon begin making generic versions of Pfizer’s coronavirus pill, the UN-backed Medicine Patent Pool, which negotiated the deal, said Thursday.
Medicines Patent Pool said in a statement that agreements reached with 35 companies should help make Pfizer’s antiviral nirmatrelvir or Paxlovoid available to more than half of the world’s population.
Generic drug manufacturers across a dozen countries in Asia, the Caribbean, the Middle East and Eastern Europe will begin producing either the raw ingredients for the Pfizer drug or the pill itself. Among the companies offered a license was one in Ukraine, which has not yet been able to confirm that it can participate.
“This will make a huge difference for the countries.” said Charles Gore, CEO of Medicines Patent Pool. He said the availability of the Pfizer drug in some of the world’s poorest countries is particularly critical.
“They have been at the back of the queue for vaccines, so having a treatment like this in the porch will be absolutely crucial in preventing deaths.”
Gore estimated that some of the generic companies may be ready to submit their drugs for regulatory approval later this year, with some supplies available in 2023.
Pfizer’s drug has been shown to reduce 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 is not targeted to the coronavirus nail protein, where most of the worrying mutations are.
Many health experts welcomed the deal, but pointed out that there are still gaps. Some countries that have suffered devastating COVID-19 outbreaks, such as Brazil, for example, are excluded from the agreement. Under the agreements, Brazilian companies can manufacture the Pfizer pill, but the generic version will not be available for sale there.
Pfizer will not receive royalties from generic companies’ sales of its drug as long as the coronavirus pandemic remains classified as a global health emergency by the World Health Organization.
In January, Medicines Patent Pool announced a similar agreement with Merck, as it signed agreements with more than two dozen companies licensed to manufacture their COVID pill, molnupiravir.
None of the companies that manufacture COVID-19 vaccines have so far agreed to work with the group to allow other manufacturers to make their shots.