US plans to buy enough Pfizer Covid treatment for 10 million people

US plans to buy enough Pfizer Covid treatment for 10 million people

The Biden administration plans to pay more than $5 billion for a supply of Pfizer’s new Covid-19 pill, enough for about 10 million courses, after the company ramps up production next year, according to people familiar with the deal. .

Senior federal health officials describe the pill as a powerful new weapon against Covid. When the drug was administered immediately to trial groups of high-risk unvaccinated people who developed symptoms of the disease, the drug significantly reduced the risk of hospitalization and death.

The move comes at a time of renewed hope among some senior Biden administration officials that the nation may have weathered the worst of the pandemic, even as the onset of winter threatens to boost the spread of the infection.

More than 70 percent of adults in the country are now fully vaccinated. After taking a horrific toll since midsummer, the virus has left a trail of death and disease, but also more natural immunity in its wake, some public health experts say.

“I really think these new oral antivirals will change the way Covid is managed,” said Dr. David Dowdy, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “These will help reduce the burden on hospitals and the death toll.”

“But even without these pills, those numbers are going down,” he added.

Pfizer on Tuesday asked the Food and Drug Administration to approve the pill for high-risk unvaccinated people. A similar drug, developed by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, could be approved as early as early December.

A Pfizer spokesperson, Kit Longley, said that while the company is seeking permission to only give the pill to unvaccinated people for now, it may request a change at a later date, depending on data from clinical trials.

Both treatments are aimed at people over the age of 65 or who suffer from medical conditions that put them at higher risk for severe Covid. Among clinical trial volunteers, the Pfizer drug reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by 89 percent when given within three days of the onset of symptoms.

The Merck Pill was about 50 percent effective when given within five days of the onset of symptoms, although the different designs and timing of the studies make comparisons inaccurate.

Pfizer has said it will be able to produce enough pills for more than 180,000 people by the end of this year and more than 21 million by the first half of next year. Merck has also said it plans to ramp up production in the coming year.

The US government initially planned to order 1.7 million courses of Pfizer’s treatment, with an additional option for 3.3 million, for about $700 per course.

But the new offer of ten million courses is expected to cost considerably less per treatment. The treatment involves 30 pills taken over the course of five days.

The contract is still being finalized, but an announcement is expected this week, according to an official familiar with the deal.

The government has also ordered 3.1 million courses of treatment, with options for 2 million more, of Merck’s Pill, for about $700 per person.

Rebecca Robbins contributed reporting.

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Rachel Meadows

Rachel Meadows

Trending topics news writer who enjoys cooking, walking her dog and travel.

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