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A pill struggle: it’ll be over a year before poorer nations get ...

World

A pill struggle: it’ll be over a year before poorer nations get Covid drug

Wealthy countries have secured 25% of initial supplies, with Pfizer urged to allocate more courses to low-income areas

James Paton

Agreements to expand global access to Pfizer’s highly effective Covid-19 therapy will be announced shortly, yet parts of the world may wait a year for the drug due to production and regulatory hurdles.

The UN-backed Medicines Patent Pool plans to name the generic drugmakers that are going to be making the pills this week, four months after reaching a licensing accord with Pfizer. The drug companies may be ready to supply the first Paxlovid pills by December, according to the Geneva-based group. Larger quantities may only reach the market in May 2023, analytics firm Airfinity estimates.

Demand for the antiviral treatment is expected to outpace supply after it slashed the risk of hospitalisation or death by almost 90% in clinical trials. So far, a group of mostly richer countries has secured about a quarter of Pfizer’s initial supplies. That’s increasing pressure on the pharma giant and others to accelerate the rollout in lower-income nations that have also struggled to obtain vaccines...

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