Pfizer (PFE) - Get Pfizer Inc. Report on Tuesday said it had reached a licensing agreement that will allow generic-drug makers to produce inexpensive versions of its COVID-19 pill for 95 low- and middle-income countries.
In a statement, Pfizer said it has signed an agreement with the United Nations-backed Medicines Patent Pool to license the experimental pill, once it is authorized by regulators, to generic companies that can supply it to countries that account for roughly 53% of the world population.
The agreement follows a similar move by Merck (MRK) - Get Merck & Co., Inc. Report, which in late October agreed to allow other drug makers to produce its own COVID-19 pill in a move aimed at helping millions of people in poorer countries get access to the potentially life-saving drug.
Pfizer won’t receive royalties from sales in low-income countries, and won’t get royalties from sales to middle-income countries covered by the pact as long as COVID-19 is classified as a public-health emergency, according to the statement.
The deal could help bolster access to a potent new virus-fighting too and in turn provide a clear path to ending the global pandemic.
Unlike mRNA technology in Pfizer’s COVID-19 shot, the chemical techniques used to manufacture pills are mature and long-established, allowing other drug makers to produce generic versions cheaper and more easily.
Pfizer has been under considerable pressure to license the technology since it announced promising clinical-trial results earlier this month with Paxlovid, which it said reduced hospitalizations by 89% and also prevented deaths. Pfizer’s drug must be given with a second AbbVie (ABBV) - Get AbbVie, Inc. Report-made booster medicine called ritonavir.
Merck COVID-19 pill, called molnupiravir, reduced hospitalizations by 50% and prevented deaths entirely when it was given within five days of when symptoms began, according to preliminary findings. It does not require a booster drug.
Merck's drug, which was approved by U.K. regulators this month, will be considered by an advisory panel to the Food and Drug Administration in December. That could lead to an emergency use authorization in the U.S. by the end of the year.
At last check, Pfizer shares were down 0.05% at $49.62. Shares of Merck were up 0.59% at $84.18. AbbVie shares were up 0.22% at $117.10.