US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer on Wednesday said it would sell its patented drugs on a not-for-profit basis to the world’s poorest countries, as part of a new initiative announced at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
The time is now to begin closing this gap” between people with access to the latest treatments and those going without, chief executive Albert Bourla told attendees at the exclusive Swiss mountain resort gathering.
“An Accord for a Healthier World” focuses on five areas: infectious diseases, cancer, inflammation, rare diseases and women’s health — where Pfizer currently holds 23 patents, including the likes of Comirnaty and Paxlovid, its Covid vaccine and oral treatment.
“This transformational commitment will increase access to Pfizer-patented medicines and vaccines available in the United States and the European Union to nearly 1.2 billion people,” Angela Hwang, group president of the Pfizer Biopharmaceuticals Group, told AFP.
Five countries: Rwanda, Ghana, Malawi, Senegal and Uganda have committed to joining, with a further 40 countries — 27 low-income and 18 lower-middle-income — eligible to sign bilateral agreements to participate.
“Pfizer’s commitment sets a new standard, which we hope to see emulated by others,” Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame said.
But he added that “additional investments and strengthening of Africa’s health systems and pharmaceutical regulators” would also be needed.
The “not-for-profit” price tag takes into account the cost to manufacture and transport of each product to an agreed upon port of entry, with Pfizer charging only manufacturing and minimum distribution costs.
If a country already has access to a product at a lower price tier, for example vaccines supplied by GAVI, a public-private global partnership, that lower price will be maintained.
Hwang acknowledged that even an at-cost approach could be challenging for the most cash-strapped countries, and “this is why we have reached out to financial institutions to brief them on the Accord and ask them to help support country level financing.”
Pfizer will also reach out to other stakeholders — including governments, multilateral organizations, NGOs and even other pharmaceuticals — to ask them to join the Accord.
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