US drugmaker Pfizer has struck a deal to allow experimental Covid-19 treatment tablets to be manufactured and sold in 95 developing countries.
The deal with the United Nations-backed Medicines Patent Organization could make the treatment available to 53% of the world’s population. The charitable organization seeks to provide vital medicines to middle and low-income countries.
But the deal excludes many countries that have experienced major outbreaks of COVID-19, including Brazil.
Pfizer says the tablets significantly reduce the risk of contracting Covid-19 in adults who are most at risk.
Pfizer said in a statement on Tuesday that the agreement would allow local drug manufacturers to produce the tablets “with the goal of facilitating their greater availability to the world’s population.”
Pfizer will not make a profit on sales in low-income countries, and has said it will waive equity in all countries covered by the agreement as long as the World Health Organization continues to consider COVID-19 a public health emergency.
And in early November, Pfizer said that clinical trials indicate that Baxilovid to treat COVID-19 reduces the risk of hospitalization or death by 89 percent for high-risk adult patients.
Charles Goure, director of the Medicines Patent Organization, said in a statement that licensing is important because “this oral medication is particularly appropriate for low- and middle-income countries and can play a critical role in saving lives.”
Most of the countries listed are in Africa or Asia. However, countries such as Brazil, China, Russia, Argentina and Thailand, which have seen significant outbreaks, are not covered by the agreement.
Some experts say this is not enough to address inequalities in access to COVID-19 treatments and vaccines.
Pfizer and other drug companies have also opposed calls to lift patents on COVID-19 vaccines.
In a statement, Doctors Without Borders said it was “disappointing” because the deal did not make Pfizer’s COVID-19 tablets available everywhere in the world.
“The world now knows that access to medical tools to respond to COVID-19 must be guaranteed to everyone, everywhere, if we really want to get this epidemic under control,” said Yuankyung Ho, WHO’s legal policy advisor.
In October, another drug company, Merck, announced a similar agreement with the Drug Patent Organization to allow manufacturers to produce their own COVID-19 tablets, called molnopiravir.
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