The African Centers for Disease Control and prevention has signed a memorandum of understanding with Pfizer for access to Paxlovid, the company’s antiviral therapy to treat COVID-19.
This come two months after the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended the use of Paxlovid for patients with mild and moderate COVID-19 who are at highest risk of developing severe disease and hospitalization including those who are unvaccinated, older, or immunosuppressed, terming it the “best therapeutic choice for high-risk patients to date.”
Two randomized controlled trials found that the pill led to an 85 percent reduction in the risk of hospitalization.
The drug is a combination of nirmatrelvir, which helps stop viral replication, and ritonavir, which boosts the effect of the nirmatrelvir. Paxlovid is taken orally for five days.
The drug is currently available in several high-, upper-middle-, and lower-middle-income nations under bilateral deals negotiated directly with Pfizer, said Lisa Hedman, a technical officer for access to medicines and health products at WHO.
According to Dr Ahmed Ogwell Ouma, acting director of Africa CDC, in a press briefing, the memorandum will give African nations access to the pill at cost, which is currently covered by confidentiality agreements.
Dr Ogwell further stated that the manner in which these pills will be distributed among countries is yet to be decided, however, the African Union (AU) will need to assess demand by countries for the pill, and health workers will also need to be trained on how to prescribe it.
The AU has served as a vehicle in providing access to African nations to COVID-19 countermeasures through pooled procurement, such as providing a platform for countries to purchase COVID-19 vaccines.
While there has been concern over availability of the pill in low- and middle-income countries, Pfizer has made a number of efforts to expand access. The company has shipped over 12 million treatment courses to nearly 40 countries.