USA – Pfizer has announced that it will supply all of its current and future patent-protected medicines and vaccines to 45 low-income countries on a non-profit basis, and it is in discussions with other major pharmaceutical companies about taking similar steps.
These countries do not have easy access to innovative treatments. According to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, new treatments in low-income countries can take four to seven years longer to become available, if at all.
Pfizer stated that its plan includes 23 wholly-owned, patented medicines and vaccines to treat infectious diseases, certain cancers, as well as rare and inflammatory diseases.
Paxlovid and Ibrance are joined on the list by the pneumonia vaccine Prevnar 13, the rheumatoid arthritis drug Xeljanz, and the cancer treatments Xalkori and Inlyta.
The COVID-19 vaccine Comirnaty developed in collaboration with BioNTech SE was also included on the list.
In an interview, Chief Executive Albert Bourla stated that all medicines made available should be useful.
“But clearly the antiviral (Paxlovid) is going to be a very big deal for them – if they need it, they can get it immediately,” he said.
When Pfizer launches new medicines and vaccines, they will be included in the drug portfolio at a non-profit price, according to the company.
Pfizer’s “An Accord for a Healthier World” includes 27 low-income countries and 18 lower-income countries that cover most of Africa and much of Southeast Asia.
Five countries have already committed to joining the agreement, which was announced at the World Economic Forum in Davos. They are Rwanda, Ghana, Malawi, Senegal, and Uganda.
According to Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera, the agreement will allow the countries and the drugmaker to share “the burden of costs and tasks in the production and delivery of supplies that will save millions of lives.“
Pfizer has previously been accused of “pandemic profiteering” due to the enormous profits generated by coronavirus-related medicines over the last two years.
It made nearly US$15 billion in sales in three months from the Covid-19 vaccine it developed with BioNTech of Germany and its new Covid pill for people at high risk of severe disease.
Further, Pfizer has been chastised for the manner in which it distributed its COVID-19 vaccine, with some poorer countries having to wait months after the first doses arrived in wealthier countries.
The difficulties of that rollout, according to Bourla, informed the new agreement, particularly the lack of health infrastructure in some countries, which made distributing the vaccine difficult.
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