Nov 18, 2021 - Health

U.S. to buy 10 million courses of Pfizer's COVID pill

Photo of Pfizer's Paxlovid.
Photo: Soumyabrata Roy/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Pfizer said Thursday that the U.S. will buy 10 million courses of its COVID antiviral pill Paxlovid for $5.29 billion by 2022 if it gains an emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration.

Why it matters: With the purchase, the Biden administration is now set to receive over 13 million courses of antiviral medications designed specifically to treat COVID-19 and reduce severe illness and deaths.

  • The administration is also procuring 3 million courses of an oral antiviral COVID-19 pill developed by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics for $2.2 billion.

What they're saying: “We were thrilled with the recent results of our Phase 2/3 interim analysis, which showed overwhelming efficacy of PAXLOVID in reducing the risk of hospitalization among high-risk patients treated within three days of symptom onset by almost 90% and with no deaths, and are pleased the U.S. government recognizes this potential,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement.

  • "This promising treatment could help accelerate our path out of this pandemic by offering another life-saving tool for people who get sick with COVID-19," Health Secretary Xavier Becerra said.

President Biden said in a statement that his administration "is making the necessary preparations now to ensure these treatments will be easily accessible and free."

  • "This treatment could prove to be another critical tool in our arsenal that will accelerate our path out of the pandemic."
  • Biden said that vaccines remain "our strongest tool," adding that his main message to Americans is to "get vaccinated."

By the numbers: The Pfizer pill regimen was shown in clinical trials to reduce the risk of hospitalization and death by 89% in people at high risk of severe illness, Pfizer said earlier this month.

  • The pill was developed specifically to treat COVID-19, by blocking the activity of the main enzyme the virus needs to multiply.

The big picture: Antiviral drugs can be a key pandemic-fighting tool in the U.S. and abroad, as not everyone will get inoculated against the virus and developing countries may not have access to large quantities of vaccines for years to come.

Go deeper: Pfizer says COVID pill cuts risk of death or hospitalization by 89%

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