WHO urges Pfizer to make Covid antiviral drug prices more transparent

The World Health Organization has called on pharmaceutical giant Pfizer to be more transparent about the price of the antiviral drug Paxlovid after recommending the drug to treat Covid-19.

The global health body, under new guidelines, recommends Paxlovid for people who develop mild or moderate symptoms but are at highest risk of developing severe illness leading to hospitalization, such as patients who have not been vaccinated strain, elderly or immunosuppressed.

The WHO on Thursday said its decision to recommend Paxlovid was based on new data from two randomized controlled trials of more than 3,000 patients that showed an 85% reduction in the risk of hospitalization after treatment.

In a high-risk group, the hospitalization rate was more than 10 percent, meaning fewer than 84 hospitalizations per 1,000 patients, officials said. Janet Diaz, WHO’s Covid-19 clinical care team leader, said that made a “significant and important” difference.

But the agency, in a statement, said it “really recommends that Pfizer make its pricing and transactions more transparent and expand the geographic reach of its license with the Drug Patent Group to more manufacturers.” Generic manufacturers can start making the drug and make it available faster and at an affordable price.”

The lack of clarity on drug prices, they say, has “made it difficult for public health organizations to get an accurate picture of drug availability, which countries are involved in bilateral agreements, and what countries are involved in.” what they are paying”.

WHO added that it is “extremely concerned that, as has happened with the Covid-19 vaccine, low- and middle-income countries will again be pushed to the bottom of the line when it comes to accessing this treatment.” .

Responding to the statement, Pfizer said it has established a strategy to work with governments, global health leaders and manufacturers to “optimize the overall supply and approach to treatment.” safe and effective treatment for the most vulnerable regions of the world”.

This, it said, includes “implementing a tiered pricing approach based on the income level of each country [and] offer a non-profit price to [low and middle income countries]”. The company said it is “continued in conversation” with a number of private partners and international organizations to make Paxlovid available to lower-income countries.

Non-disclosure agreements and confidentiality clauses are standard in commercial contracts to build trust between parties, according to industry insiders.

Lisa Hedman, a WHO expert on access to medicines, said Paxlovid is already available in a number of countries, delivered under bilateral agreements that countries have negotiated directly with Pfizer.

The value of these transactions, she said, was not disclosed under a confidentiality agreement with Pfizer, but it operates a tiered pricing scheme in which upper-middle-income countries, average and lower pay different amounts. She said there are only two publicly available prices: $530 paid by a high-income country and $250 paid by a high-middle-income country for a course of treatment.

Hedman added that Pfizer has signed an agreement with Unicef ​​under which 4 million doses will be sent to low- and middle-income countries.

Separately, the WHO has changed its guidance on another antiviral drug – remdesivir, developed by Gilead Sciences – that it had previously rejected for all Covid-19 patients after new data showed found it may be effective for mild or moderate cases at high risk of hospitalization. .

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