Pfizer said Thursday it has signed a $ 5.29 billion deal with the U.S. government to deliver 10 million courses of its investigational antiviral drug COVID-19, as the country rushes to secure promising oral treatments for the disease.
The deal is roughly double the size of the contract the US government made with Merck & Co Inc., although the price of the Pfizer pill is less than around $ 530 per course, compared to around $ 700 for Merck.
Pfizer requested emergency clearance for the drug, branded Paxlovid, this week after reporting data showing it was 89% effective in preventing hospitalization or death in those at risk.
The drugmaker said it would begin shipments of the treatment as early as this year if cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
“This agreement would help ensure that millions of doses of this drug would be available to the American people if it were authorized,” said Xavier Becerra, secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services.
While COVID-19 vaccinations are a priority, having pills that can prevent people from going to hospital “could be a lifeline,” Becerra said.
Pfizer said it plans to manufacture 180,000 treatment courses by the end of next month and at least 50 million courses by the end of 2022.
Countries have rushed to secure doses of the oral drugs Pfizer and Merck, based on promising data reported by the two companies.
The U.S. government has so far secured 3.1 million courses of the COVID-19 pill from Merck for $ 2.2 billion, with the right to purchase an additional 2 million courses in the future.
Pfizer shares edged up to $ 51.18 pre-market. – Reuters