US to buy 10m courses of Pfizer’s pill for $5.3bn

Published November 19, 2021
Paxlovid, Pfizer's coronavirus disease pill, is seen manufactured in Freiburg, Germany, in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters on November 16. — Reuters/File
Paxlovid, Pfizer's coronavirus disease pill, is seen manufactured in Freiburg, Germany, in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters on November 16. — Reuters/File

WASHINGTON: Pfizer Inc said on Thursday the US government would pay $5.29 billion for 10 million courses of its experimental Covid anti-viral drug.

The deal is for around twice as many treatment courses as Merck & Co Inc has agreed to supply the United States under its contract. The price for the Pfizer pill is nearly 25 percent lower at roughly $530 per course, compared with about $700 for Merck’s.

Pfizer applied for emergency authorisation of the drug, branded as Paxlovid, this week after reporting data showing that it was 89 percent effective at preventing hospitalisation or death in at-risk people.

“While this pill still requires a full review by the Food and Drug Administration, I have taken immediate steps to secure enough supply for the American people,” President Joe Biden said in a statement. He added that his administration was making preparations to ensure the treatment is easily accessible and free. Getting vaccinated should still be the priority for Americans but having pills that can keep people out of the hospital “could be a lifesaver”, said US Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra.

Pfizer has said it expects to manufacture 180,000 treatment courses by the end of next month and at least 50 million courses by the end of next year.

Published in Dawn, November 19th, 2021

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