Pfizer will bring low-cost drugs to 45 low-income countries | News on the coronavirus pandemic

US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer said it would sell its patented drugs on a not-for-profit basis to the world’s poorest countries, under a new initiative announced at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

“Now is the time to start bridging this gap” between people with access to the latest treatments and those who don’t, chief executive Albert Bourla told attendees at the Swiss mountain resort rally on Wednesday.

“What we discovered through the pandemic was that there was not enough supply to solve the problems faced by these countries,” Bourla said.

He noted that billions of doses of the company’s COVID-19 vaccine, Comirnaty, have been donated to low-income countries for free, mostly through the US government, but those doses cannot be used at this time.

“A deal for a healthier world” focuses on five areas: infectious diseases, cancer, inflammation, rare diseases and women’s health – where Pfizer currently holds 23 patents, including Comirnaty and Paxlovid, its COVID vaccine and its oral treatment.

“This transformational commitment will increase access to Pfizer-patented medicines and vaccines available in the United States and European Union to nearly 1.2 billion people,” Angela Hwang, president of Pfizer Biopharmaceuticals Group, said at the press release. AFP news agency.

Five countries: Rwanda, Ghana, Malawi, Senegal and Uganda have committed to join, with 40 other countries – 27 low-income and 18 lower-middle income – eligible to sign bilateral participation.

“Pfizer’s commitment sets a new standard, which we hope others will emulate,” said Rwandan President Paul Kagame.

But he added that “additional investment and strengthening of African health systems and pharmaceutical regulators” would also be needed.

seven years late

Developing countries bear 70% of the global burden of disease but receive only 15% of global health spending, with devastating results.

In sub-Saharan Africa, one in 13 children dies before their fifth birthday, compared to one in 199 in high-income countries.

Cancer-related death rates are also much higher in low- and middle-income countries, causing more deaths each year in Africa than malaria.

All this in a context of limited access to the latest drugs.

Essential medicines and vaccines typically take four to seven years longer to reach the poorest countries, and supply chain issues and under-resourced health systems make it difficult for patients to receive them once approved.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the complexities of access to quality health care and the resulting inequities,” Hwang said.

“We know there are a number of hurdles countries have to overcome to get access to our medicines. This is why we initially selected five pilot countries to identify and propose operational solutions, then share these lessons with the remaining countries.

“Very good model”

Specifically, the focus will be on addressing regulatory and supply issues in countries, while ensuring adequate supply levels from Pfizer’s side.

The “not-for-profit” price takes into account the cost of manufacturing and transporting each product to an agreed port of entry, with Pfizer charging only the minimum manufacturing and distribution costs.

If a country already has access to a product at a lower price, for example, vaccines provided by GAVI, a global public-private partnership, this lower price will be maintained.

Hwang acknowledged that even a cost-based approach could be difficult for the most cash-strapped countries, and “that’s why we reached out to financial institutions to inform them of the Accord and ask them to help support financing at the country level”.

Pfizer will also contact other stakeholders – including governments, multilateral organizations, NGOs and even other pharmaceutical companies – to ask them to join the Accord.

It is also using funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to advance work on a vaccine against group B streptococcus (GBS), the leading cause of stillbirth and neonatal death in low-income countries.

“This type of deal is a really good model, it’s going to help get the drugs out,” Gates told the Davos conference, adding that “partnerships with companies like Pfizer have been key to the progress we’ve had. made” on efforts like vaccines.

Earlier this month, the head of the World Health Organization called on Pfizer to make its COVID-19 treatment more widely available in poorer countries.

Comirnaty made nearly $37 billion in sales last year, and analysts expect the company’s COVID-19 treatment, Paxlovid, to add nearly $24 billion this year, according to the company. FactSet data.

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