U.S. Bolsters Stash of Pfizer Covid Pill With Additional 10 Million Courses
(Bloomberg) -- Pfizer Inc. said the U.S. government has agreed to buy an additional 10 million courses of its Covid-19 pill, adding to the country’s stash of virus-fighting tools as infections continue to rise.
The company said in a statement on Tuesday that the U.S. agreed to buy the additional supply of the drug, known as Paxlovid, on top of 10 million courses it had previously agreed to purchase. About 10 million courses have been accelerated for delivery by the end of June, Pfizer said, with the remaining tranche to be delivered by the end of September.
Pfizer shares were down 2.8% at 2:45 p.m. in New York on Tuesday.
Paxlovid, which was cleared for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration last month for people at high-risk of developing severe disease, has been shown in clinical trials to sharply reduce hospitalizations and deaths from Covid-19.
It was the first at-home therapy for the virus to be made available in the U.S.; a similar oral therapy from Merck & Co. and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics LP has also been authorized by the FDA. The drugs are being made available at no charge to patients and delivered to states on a per capita basis.
Speaking at the White House on Tuesday, President Joe Biden said “we may need even more” Paxlovid beyond what the U.S. has already secured. The drug is a “game changer,” he said.
The U.S. is stocking up on the Pfizer pills at the same time that cases linked to the spread of the highly transmissible omicron variant are sharply increasing. Though vaccines have seen diminished efficacy against omicron, Paxlovid is expected to be effective against the strain because it doesn’t take aim at the shape-shifting spike protein targeted by the shots.
“With the omicron variant surging, the availability of and accessibility to treatment options is of utmost importance, as millions of people are being diagnosed with Covid-19 each and every day,” said Pfizer Chief Executive Officer Albert Bourla in a statement.
Though Pfizer’s Paxlovid is considered a more convenient and accessible treatment option than other Covid drugs, patients will continue to face headwinds in getting access to them. High-risk patients ages 12 and older must test positive before obtaining a prescription, which poses a challenge at a time when diagnostic tools are in short supply.
The U.S. has also warned that it will initially have a limited supply of Pfizer’s Paxlovid, having received just 65,000 courses of treatment upon authorization in December. That could limit the drug’s potential to make a difference in the current wave of infections.
Under the previous order, the U.S. shipments were expected to slowly ramp up, beginning with another 200,000 or so in January and reaching about 2 million by April. The new order will boost short-term deliveries, with more than 300,000 additional courses now due by the end of March, a person familiar with the matter said.
The pills take six to eight months to make, a process the Biden administration has said it hopes to help Pfizer accelerate.
Pfizer also raised its global production target for Paxlovid to 120 million of courses of treatment by the end of 2022. Previously, the New York-based drugmaker expected to make 80 million courses.
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