Nov 16, 2021 - Health

Pfizer agrees to share recipe for COVID-19 pill

The blue Pfizer logo in the background, and a glove holding blue and white pills in the foreground.

Photo illustration: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Pfizer has agreed to a licensing deal with the UN's Medicines Patent Pool for its COVID-19 pill — roughly a month after Merck said it licensed its COVID pill with the MPP.

Why it matters: These antiviral pills have showed promising results in reducing the severity of infection and preventing death among the unvaccinated, and Pfizer's licensing agreement, combined with Merck's, will allow generic drug companies to cheaply produce the pills for more than 100 low- and middle-income countries.

Details: Pfizer's agreement will cover 95 countries, compared with Merck's agreement that covered 105.

  • "Pfizer will not receive royalties on sales in low-income countries and will further waive royalties on sales in all countries covered by the agreement" until the World Health Organization no longer classifies the pandemic as a "public health emergency," Pfizer said in a press release.
  • The countries included in Pfizer's licensing agreement, but not Merck's, are Armenia, Georgia, Jordan, Kosovo, Kyrgyz Republic, Ukraine and West Bank and Gaza, according to the nonprofit Knowledge Ecology International. Pfizer's agreement excludes several island nations.

Yes, but: While the antivirals are considered to be a major tool to end the pandemic, the vaccines remain the most effective way to prevent serious illness and death from, and many low-income countries included in these licensing agreements still don't have easy access to vaccines.

What to watch: Pfizer and Merck released data for their COVID pills in press releases, so it will be up to the FDA and independent experts to dig through the full data to determine how safe and effective the drugs are.

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