WHO 'strongly recommends' Pfizer's Covid pill | 5 things to know about Paxlovid

Apr 22, 2022 07:00 AM IST

The WHO recommended Paxlovid over remdesivir, as well as over Merck's molnupiravir pill and monoclonal antibodies.

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday “strongly recommended” the use of Pfizer's antiviral pill Paxlovid in patients with mild and moderate forms of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) at the highest risk of hospitalisation. The UN health agency, however, highlighted the challenges of availability and lack of price transparency in low- and middle-income countries, raising concerns that such countries may again be "pushed to the end of the queue" for accessing the treatment.

Pfizer's coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pill Paxlovid is manufactured in Freiburg, Germany.(via Reuters)
Pfizer's coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pill Paxlovid is manufactured in Freiburg, Germany.(via Reuters)

5 things you need to know about Pfizer's antiviral pill:

  • Paxlovid is a combination of nirmatrelvir and ritonavir tablets and is administered orally.
  • WHO's recommendation is based on data from two randomized controlled trials showing that the risk of hospital admission is reduced by 85% following the administration of the pill in a high-risk group.
  • The UN agency has recommended against its use in Covid patients at lower risk of hospitalisation, saying the benefits were found to be negligible.
  • While the brand name drug, sold by Pfizer, will be included in the WHO prequalification list, the health agency said that generic products are not yet available from quality-assured sources. Generic products are the copy of brand name drugs and are available at a much lower price, making accessibility easier in low- and middle-income countries.
  • According to the WHO, a licensing agreement between Pfizer and Medicines Patent Pool limits the number of countries that can benefit from the generic production of the medicine.

“WHO therefore strongly recommends that Pfizer make its pricing and deals more transparent and that it enlarge the geographical scope of its licence with the Medicines Patent Pool so that more generic manufacturers may start to produce the medicine and make it available faster at affordable prices,” the health agency said.

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