Pfizer's anti-Covid pill gets WHO approval. Here's what you should know about Paxlovid

New DelhiEdited By: C KrishnasaiUpdated: Apr 22, 2022, 02:29 PM IST
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Paxlovid is a combination of nirmatrelvir and ritonavir tablets and is administered orally

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday "strongly recommended" Pfizer’s COVID-19 antiviral pill Paxlovid for patients who have milder forms of the disease but are still at a high risk of hospitalisation, reports AFP.

The global health agency, however, expressed concern over the possibility of Paxlovid being inaccessible to low and middle-income countries as has been the case for Covid vaccines

Here are some key things you need to know about Pfizer's antiviral pill

1) Paxlovid is a combination of nirmatrelvir and ritonavir tablets and is administered orally.

2) WHO's recommendation is based on data from two randomized controlled trials showing that the risk of hospital admission is reduced by 85 per cent following the intake of the pill in a high-risk group.

3) The UN agency has recommended its use in Covid patients who at lower risk of hospitalisation.

4) 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.

5) 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.

Limitations and inequities

The WHO stressed the limitations of such antiviral treatments. "The medicine can only be administered while the disease is at its early stages," they said.

This means that the patients must quickly test positive and be prescribed the pill by a doctor — all of which can pose obstacles for low- and middle-income countries, the WHO said.

Patients must start taking their Paxlovid pills within five days of the onset of symptoms — the course then lasts five days.

Remdesivir can be taken within seven days of symptoms setting in, but it is administered intravenously over three days.

Questions about cost

The WHO called on Pfizer to "make its pricing and deals more transparent" for Paxlovid.

Lisa Hedman, the WHO's senior advisor on access to medicines, said that radio station NPR reported a full course of Paxlovid costs $530 in the United States. Another source unconfirmed by WHO gave the price of $250 in an upper-middle income country

(With inputs from agencies)