USA — The COVID-19 treatments that millions of Americans have been receiving at no cost from the federal government will soon make their debut in the private market, accompanied by a significant price tag.

Pfizer, the pharmaceutical giant, has set the price for a five-day treatment of Paxlovid at US$1,390.  However, there is a temporary silver lining for Americans as they can still access these pills without cost, at least for now.

In addition to Paxlovid, the less commonly used COVID-19 treatment, Lagevrio, manufactured by Merck, is also set to enter the market.

As U.S. Health and Human Services officials revealed, millions of free, taxpayer-funded courses of these pills will continue to be available at pharmacies, hospitals, and doctor’s offices across the country.

But the transition will gradually unfold, leading to a change in the landscape of healthcare costs. People with private insurance may begin to notice copays for these treatments once the supply from the government runs out.

The U.S. government originally made a substantial investment, paying over US$5 billion for 10 million courses of Paxlovid back in 2021.

However, a recent agreement between Pfizer and the federal government ensures that people on Medicaid, Medicare, or those without medical insurance will not have to bear any out-of-pocket costs for the treatment until the end of the following year.

Furthermore, Pfizer has committed to offering copay assistance for the treatment through 2028. While some may worry about accessibility, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense, and the Indian Health Service will still be able to access Paxlovid from the government’s stockpile, which will also receive an additional 1 million treatment courses.

The transition extends beyond just pricing and availability. Suppliers to pharmacies, doctor’s offices, and hospitals can begin placing orders for these treatments from the drug companies next week, ensuring a seamless shift to the private market.

Pfizer emphasized its dedication to a smooth commercial transition, working collaboratively with the U.S. government and healthcare stakeholders to provide equitable access to this vital medicine for all eligible patients.

Paxlovid, a COVID-19 treatment available since 2021, received full approval from the Food and Drug Administration earlier this year for use on adults with coronavirus who face a high risk of hospitalization or death.

This demographic typically includes older adults and individuals with underlying medical conditions like diabetes, asthma, and obesity.

The combined revenue for Paxlovid and Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, Comirnaty, is anticipated to reach approximately US$12.5 billion in a full year.

Merck, on the other hand, has not yet confirmed a list price for its Lagevrio treatment. Nevertheless, they have assured in a statement that the treatment will be offered free of charge to patients who would not be able to afford it without assistance.

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