The Biden administration has reached a deal with drugmaker Pfizer to provide 10 million doses of its experimental oral antiviral pill to the U.S. government if the drug receives regulatory approval.
The deal is worth $5.29 billion, according to Pfizer. The drug was shown to be 89% effective at preventing hospitalizations and deaths among high-risk adults who had early symptoms of COVID-19, the company announced earlier this month. The company filed for emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) earlier this week.
"Today, I’m announcing that we have purchased 10 million treatment courses of the Pfizer antiviral COVID-19 pill, with delivery starting at the end of this year and across 2022," President Joe Biden said in a release. "My administration is making the necessary preparations now to ensure these treatments will be easily accessible and free."
"This is positive news," Biden said, "This treatment could prove to be another critical tool in our arsenal that will accelerate our path out of the pandemic."
"But vaccines remain our strongest tool," the president urged. "With the authorization of vaccines for children aged 5 – 11 years old, 95% of Americans are now eligible to be vaccinated. My message continues to be: get vaccinated. The vaccines are safe, free, and easily available. Don’t wait. Get vaccinated today."
"We were thrilled with the recent results of our Phase 2/3 interim analysis, which showed overwhelming efficacy of PAXLOVID in reducing the risk of hospitalization among high-risk patients treated within three days of symptom onset by almost 90% and with no deaths, and are pleased the U.S. government recognizes this potential," Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla wrote in a statement.
"This promising treatment could help accelerate our path out of this pandemic by offering another life-saving tool for people who get sick with COVID-19,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra wrote in a separate statement. “With President Biden’s leadership, we are using all resources at our disposal to prepare for any future pandemic needs."
"Getting vaccinated remains the most important action anyone can take to help protect themselves and others and end this pandemic, but for people who do get sick in the future and are at risk of severe outcomes, having pills they can take to keep them out of the hospital could be a lifesaver," Becerra continued. "This agreement would help ensure millions of doses of this drug would be available to the American people if it is authorized.”
The U.S. also agreed to purchase 3.1 million doses of a similar antiviral treatment for COVID-19 from drugmaker Merck.
Currently, the only authorized treatments to combat COVID-19 are either administered intraveinously or via injection, and are given at a hospital or clinic by a health care professional. The U.S. has approved one other antiviral drug for COVID-19, remdesivir, and authorized three antibody therapies that help the immune system fight the virus.