Pfizer will let nearly 95 countries manufacture COVID pill

Nov. 16, 2021

Pfizer has struck a deal to more quickly distribute its experimental COVID-19 pill around the world.

This week, the company announced that it will allow 95 low- and middle-income countries — mainly in Africa and Asia — to manufacture the drug. The deal was forged with UN-backed Medicines Patent Pool, a nonprofit that also worked with Merck on a similar agreement over its COVID-19 treatment. With the deal in place, manufacturers will have access to the formula for the Pfizer medication and a sublicense to produce it.

Pfizer’s antiviral pill, called Paxlovid, was recently shown to be about 90% effective at cutting the risk of death and hospitalization in high-risk COVID-19 patients.

Although the deal is expected to be a boon for countries struggling to beat back the pandemic, critics point out that the necessity of the pill is only this high because of the unequal global distribution of vaccines. Several countries with high infection rates — including Brazil, Libya and Jamaica — were also left out of the deal and will have to source pills directly from Pfizer. 

Pfizer is on track to pull in about $36 billion in revenue this year from its COVID-19 vaccine.