Pharmaceutical and biotechnology giant Pfizer has inked a licensing deal that will make generic versions of its COVID-19 pill available in many lower-income countries across the globe. This antiviral pill, dubbed Paxlovid, is not yet ready for public use; Pfizer recently applied for a federal emergency-use authorization from the FDA. So far producing encouraging results in clinical trials, the pill is intended to help treat mild to moderate cases of COVID-19 in patients with higher risk of hospitalization or death.
The pursuit of pills for COVID-19 treatment has heated up as of late, as this treatment is hugely advantageous in that it can come into play soon after infection/diagnosis. This means it can be administered at home in order to mitigate infection spread, thus reducing the chance of a single patient causing an outbreak.
This licensing deal covers 95 countries, accounting for roughly 53% of the world's population. The drug's legality has been verified for those mostly low-income, lower-middle-income, or upper middle-income territories. In terms of COVID-19 case numbers, though, some hard-hit countries did not make the list, with Russia, Brazil, Turkey, and Romania conspicuously omitted. Despite being upper middle-income like many of the 95 countries in Pfizer's register, those four made a different list: they're in the globe's top ten countries for COVID-19 case count.
Experts at Doctors Without Borders have cautioned that setting limits with a "restrictive voluntary" license means many countries and their millions of citizens will not be able to reap any benefits. They have consequently implored drugmakers in excluded countries to look into producing the generic medicine for themselves.