Pfizer to allow generic versions of its Covid-19 pill in 95 countries
Pfizer Inc has said it will allow generic manufacturers to supply its experimental antiviral Covid pill to 95 low- and middle-income countries through a licensing agreement with international public health group Medicines Patent Pool (MPP).
Reuters reports that the voluntary licensing agreement between Pfizer and the MPP will allow the United Nations-backed group to grant sub-licenses to qualified generic drug manufacturers to make their own versions of PF-07321332. Pfizer will sell the pills it manufactures under the brand name Paxlovid.
Pfizer, which also makes one of the mostly widely used Covid vaccines, has said the pill cut the chance of hospitalisation or death for adults at risk of severe disease by 89% in its clinical trial. The drug will be used in combination with ritonavir, an HIV drug that is already available generically.
Pfizer’s licensing deal follows a similar arrangement by rival Merck & Co for generic manufacturing of its Covid treatment. The deals are unusual arrangements that acknowledge the dire need for effective treatments as well as the pressure drugmakers are under to make their life-saving drugs accessible at very low costs.
“We are extremely pleased to have another weapon in our armoury to protect people from the ravages of Covid-19,” Charles Gore, the executive director of the MPP, said in an interview.
Gore said he hoped the generic version of Pfizer’s drug will be available within months.
The 95 countries in the license agreement cover around 53% of the world’s population and include all low- and lower-middle-income countries and some upper-middle-income countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
They also include countries that have transitioned from lower-middle to upper-middle-income status in the past five years, Pfizer and the MPP said.
“We believe oral antiviral treatments can play a vital role in reducing the severity of Covid-19 infections… We must work to ensure that all people – regardless of where they live or their circumstances – have access to these breakthroughs,” Pfizer chief executive Albert Bourla said in a statement.
Pfizer will waive royalties on sales in low-income countries. It will also waive them in the other countries covered by the agreement as long as Covid remains classified as a public health emergency of international concern by the World Health Organization.
Pfizer’s version of the drug will be in high demand. The company has said it expects to manufacture 180,000 treatment courses by the end of next month and at least 50 million courses by the end of 2022.
Even so, the drugmaker could be stretched trying to supply 47% of the world’s population. A Pfizer executive said last week the market for the drug might be up to 150 million people and that many countries might also be interested in buying doses for their strategic reserves.
Pfizer has said it will sell the supply it produces using a tiered pricing approach based on the income level of each country. In the United States, it expects to price its treatment close to where Merck has priced its drug at around $700 a course.
Merck has license agreements for it Covid pill, molnupiravir, in over 100 countries. Still, some international health officials said even that is not enough for the medicine to reach many in low- and middle-income countries in large enough numbers.
Cyprus offers Covid vaccine boosters to younger people
Cyprus health officials said they would gradually offer Covid vaccine booster shots to anyone over 18, following a surge in daily cases and an increase in hospitalisations, AFP reports.
The health ministry said that booster jabs would be available at walk-in centres for anyone aged 40 and over from Wednesday, provided they completed their initial vaccination scheme six months earlier.
This follows a cabinet decision on Monday to expand the booster rollout to the entire adult population from 18 upwards, with lower age groups set to join the programme later.
The Mediterranean island nation of about 1 million people contained a surge in Covid cases to the low hundreds from a peak of 1,152 daily infections, mainly thanks to a high vaccination rate.
But the adult vaccination drive has struggled to move forward after reaching 80%, and on Monday new cases rose to 354, their highest level since August.
In early September, Cyprus rolled out its booster shot scheme for people residing in nursing homes and healthcare workers to prevent a new wave of infections as immunity wanes in older groups.
Since then, authorities have pushed the age limit down regularly.
But the majority of people eligible for a third dose have not come forward.
According to health ministry figures, 57.8% of those over 80 have received a booster shot, but only 23.3% of over-70s and 13% of over-60s have turned up for the third dose.
Cyprus has reported a total of 128,038 Covid cases and 588 deaths.
The 14-day cumulative case rate leading up to 8 November was 284.7 per 100,000 people.
The head of the NHS in England has said that the guidance on wearing masks in healthcare settings is “clear”, PA reports.
Amanda Pritchard said that “people should wear masks in healthcare settings”.
Asked what she thought when she saw images of the prime minister Boris Johnson without a mask in hospital, the NHS England chief executive said:
The guidance is clear: people should wear masks in healthcare settings. I wasn’t on the visit. So I’m afraid I don’t know the ins and outs of exactly what happened there.
Pressed on whether she would have told Johnson to put a mask back on, she added:
I’m sure my colleagues did encourage everybody there to follow the appropriate guidance.
Johnson visited Hexham General Hospital in Northumberland last week, and photographs showed him meeting masked nurses at the hospital, talking to them and bumping elbows with them, despite not having his face covered.
Soon after that photo opportunity, he put on a mask, which had been handed to him by an aide.
Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust said the prime minister “did wear a mask for the majority of the visit”.
But “after the prime minister left a welcome meeting, he walked along a mezzanine corridor, for a very short period of time, without a mask”.
“As soon as this was identified he was given a mask and he put it on,” the trust said.
Johnson’s mask-less appearance at the Cop26 climate change summit in Glasgow also raised eyebrows as he sat next to 95-year-old environmentalist Sir David Attenborough, who was wearing a face covering.
At a Downing Street press briefing on Monday, the prime minister insisted that he takes a “responsible” approach to wearing a mask.
I wear a mask wherever the rules say that I should, and I urge everybody else to do the same. People have actually seen me wearing face coverings quite a bit more regularly as we have seen the numbers ticking up in the UK. I think that is the responsible thing to do and I am going to continue to do it.
Johnson said the government would “continue with our approach, which is to rely on people’s common sense – on people’s sense of personal responsibility to themselves and to others”.
“But clearly in confined spaces, where you are meeting people that you don’t normally meet, you should wear a face covering,” he added.
Amazon has agreed to pay a $500,000 fine and be monitored by California officials after the state’s attorney general said the company failed to “adequately notify” workers and health authorities about new Covid-19 cases.
Amazon employs about 150,000 people in California, most of them at 100 “fulfillment centers” – sprawling warehouses where orders are packed and shipped. The agreement, which must be approved by a judge, requires the Seattle-based retailer to notify its workers within a day of new coronavirus cases in their workplaces.
Amazon also agreed to notify local health agencies of new virus cases within 48 hours and will stop issuing notices that Rob Bonta, California’s attorney general, said do not adequately tell employees about Amazon’s safety and disinfection plan and workers’ rights related to the pandemic.
“As the company enjoyed booming and historic sales with its stock price doubling, Amazon failed to adequately notify warehouse workers and local health agencies of Covid case numbers, often leaving them unable to effectively track the spread of the virus,” Bonta told reporters in San Francisco at an event held across the street from an Amazon warehouse.
Bonta added: “This left many workers understandably terrified and powerless to make informed decisions to protect themselves and to protect their loved ones,” such as getting tested for the virus, staying home or quarantining if they’ve been notified of a potential workplace exposure.
Bonta said the judgment is the first of its kind in the US and complies with a state “right-to-know” law that took effect last year.
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Good morning from London. I’m Lucy Campbell, I’ll be bringing you all the latest global developments on the coronavirus pandemic for the next eight hours. Please feel free to get in touch with me as I work if you have a story or tips to share! Your thoughts are always welcome.
Email: [email protected]
Today so far
- A Kyiv crematorium has doubled its cremations compared with the summer months as virus deaths soar in the Ukraine capital. The news comes as Ukrainians will soon be offered a cash incentive to get double-vaccinated against Covid-19 in a bid to boost the country’s low inoculation rate.
- Russia continues to report fairly consistent numbers of Covid deaths and cases as authorities wait anxiously to see whether the week long paid shutdown at the beginning of the month has made a dent into the transmission of the virus. Today Russia announced 1,240 deaths, which is close the record high, and 36,818 new cases.
- Russia has granted approval for Pzifer to conduct clinical trials in Russia of its experimental antiviral pill to treat Covid-19.
- As Germany battles its worst infection rate since the pandemic began, some states are considering putting in place so-called 2G rules, which effectively exclude people who choose not to be vaccinated from many areas of public life. Berlin adopted the new rules on Monday. Only people who are fully vaccinated or who have recovered from Covid-19 in the past six months are permitted to eat inside restaurants or go to clubs or bars. Only children and those who have medical reasons for not being vaccinated are exempt from the rule.
- ONS figures show that the number of deaths involving Covid in the week ending 5 November was the highest in England since 19 March 2021 and in Wales the highest since 5 March 2021.
- Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of the NHS in England, has said “The guidance is clear that people should wear masks in healthcare settings” in response to questions about Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s maskless appearance in a hospital last week.
- Labour’s shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds has accused the UK government of letting “its foot off the pedal” on the Covid booster jab programme, where the numbers receiving jabs are much lower than the government had predicted.
- The Czech Republic reported 11,514 new Covid-19 cases for 15 November, the fifth time daily infections have topped 10,000 in past seven days
- Cathay Pacific is bringing in new regulations for its aircrew in Hong Kong that will mean they will have to quarantine for 21 days after trips abroad. The regulations will come into force from tomorrow.
- The first person infected with Covid linked to the St Basil’s aged care home outbreak in Australia, in which 50 residents died, has spoken publicly for the first time, telling a coroner she was cleared to work despite living in a high-risk suburb with relatives experiencing “throat discomfort”.
- Vaccine mandates are taking effect in New Zealand as the nation sets another daily record for community Covid-19 infections and a new death.
- Our Science Weekly podcast this week asks why does Covid-19 make things smell disgusting?
Andrew Sparrow has the UK politics live blog today. Lucy Campbell will be here shortly to continue bringing you the latest Covid developments from the UK and around the world. I’m Martin Belam, and I will see you here again tomorrow.
The weekly data bulletin on deaths in England and Wales has been issued this morning by the Office of National Statistics (ONS). The main findings this week are:
- In the week ending 5 November, 11,550 deaths were registered in England and Wales; 563 more deaths than the previous week and 16.8% above the five-year average, which equates to 1,659 more deaths.
- Of the deaths registered, 995 mentioned “novel coronavirus (Covid-19)” on the death certificate. That is 8.6% of all deaths, an increase from 7.8% the previous week.
- The number of deaths involving Covid was the highest in England since 19 March 2021 and in Wales the highest since 5 March 2021.
Cathay Pacific is bringing in new regulations for its aircrew that will mean they will have to quarantine for 21 days after trips abroad. The regulations will come into force from tomorrow.
Crew have been told that for the first three days after an overseas trip they must stay at home except for a small number of exemptions like solo exercise and the purchase of essential food and medicines. For the next 18 days they are then told they must avoid all unnecessary social contact.
Hong Kong still has a strict set of travel precautions in place, with most arrivals to the city having to spend 14 or 21 days in hotel quarantine.
Russia continues to report fairly consistent numbers of Covid deaths and cases as authorities wait anxiously to see whether the week long paid shutdown at the beginning of the month has made a dent into the transmission of the virus.
Today, Russia announced 1,240 deaths, which is close the record high, and 36,818 new cases. This is slightly down on yesterday’s figure. The highest caseload recently was on 6 November, when new cases breached 40,000. The seven-day average has been trending slightly downwards for 10 days now.
There’s a committee session in parliament in the UK about to begin looking at global vaccine access. The all-party parliamentary group on coronavirus is running the session from 10am-11.30am in London, and those giving evidence include:
- Dr David Nabarro, the World Health Organization’s special envoy on Covid-19.
- Dr Ayoade Alakija, co-chair of the Africa Union Africa Vaccine Delivery Alliance.
- Dr Nicaise Ndemb, chief science adviser to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention director.
- Anna Marriott, health policy adviser for Oxfam.
If you fancy watching that, it is being broadcast live on their YouTube channel and starts in about 10 minutes’ time.
There is a slight return this morning of the row over British prime minister Boris Johnson’s recent visit to Hexham General hospital on 8 November, where he was photographed not wearing a face mask.
Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of the NHS in England, was asked about it on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme this morning. “The guidance is clear that people should wear masks in healthcare settings,” she said.
PA Media reports that pressed on whether she would have told Johnson to put a mask back on, she added: “I wasn’t on the visit. So I’m afraid I don’t know the ins and outs of exactly what happened there. I’m sure my colleagues did encourage everybody there to follow the appropriate guidance.”
The Covid pandemic does generate a few good news stories, and Ngouda Dione and Cooper Inveen report for Reuters this morning that quieter beaches in Senegal have been a boon to the local turtle population.
Increased fishing, tourism and construction have left fewer safe nesting grounds for Senegal’s turtles, which are listed as threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Only two or three turtles have laid their eggs in Guereo in recent years, while dozens did a generation ago, Djibril Diakhate said. The 47-year-old barkeeper patrols this beach up to 75 nights a year to keep predators from their nests until the eggs are ready to hatch.
“I have always been affected by the birth of these turtles,” he said. “The first time I witnessed a hatching, I cried at these creatures of God.”
Saliou Mbodji, president of the nearby Somone Marine Protection Area, attributes the change to Covid-19 restrictions that halted local fishing and tourism for much of 2020.
“There were not many people at the beaches or the hotels,” Mbodji said. “There was less light, so more turtles came to lay their eggs on the beaches.”
This year, however, the number of nests has again diminished as restriction begin to life.
Russia approves clinical trials of Pzifer antiviral pill
Polina Nikolskaya reports for Reuters that Russia has granted approval for Pzifer to conduct clinical trials in Russia of its experimental antiviral pill to treat Covid-19, a state registry of medicines showed on Tuesday.
The trials conducted on 90 people located in home-like conditions with someone who has symptomatic Covid-19 began on 12 November and will continue until March 2023, the registry’s website said.
Pfizer said earlier this month the experimental antiviral pill cut by 89% the chance of hospitalisation or death for adults at risk of severe disease. It hopes to make the pill available globally as quickly as possible. The pill has the brand name Paxlovid.