Pfizer Offers Low-Cost Drugs And Vaccines—Including Covid Treatments—To World’s Poorest Countries
Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer on Wednesday said it will make its entire portfolio of patented medicines and vaccines available to low-income countries on a not-for-profit basis in a bid to narrow the global healthcare gap that came under renewed scrutiny during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The U.S. drugmaker said it would sell its patented medicines and vaccines available in the U.S. and EU on a not-for-profit basis to the world’s poorest countries.
The initiative, announced at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, will make 23 medicines and vaccines available to treat infectious diseases, some cancers and rare and inflammatory diseases, the company said, including Covid-19, leukemia, breast cancer, pneumonia and meningitis.
The scheme, part of Pfizer’s “An Accord for a Healthier World” initiative, will cover 1.2 billion people living in 45 lower-income countries.
Five countries—Uganda, Malawi, Senegal, Ghana and Rwanda—have already joined the accord and will work to identify other barriers to healthcare beyond the supply of medicines, such as supply chain management, policy and medical education.
The learnings from these five countries will be “applied to support the roll out for the remaining forty,” Pfizer said.
The rollout of vaccines during the Covid-19 pandemic has shown that “supply is only the first step to helping patients,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said, adding that the company will work with health leaders to make improvements to overcome other obstacles and end healthcare inequalities.
What To Watch For
New additions. Pfizer said it will add new medicines and vaccines to the not-for-profit portfolio as it launches them elsewhere. The company also said it is working with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a big funder of global health campaigns, to develop vaccines for Group B Streptococcus, one of the leading causes of stillbirth and newborn death in low-income countries. Pfizer also said the Foundation is discussing ways to support the company’s work on a vaccine for Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), a leading killer of children around the world. Bill Gates, who co-chairs the foundation, said “everyone, no matter where they live, should have the same access to innovative, life-saving drugs and vaccines.”
Pfizer, alongside other pharmaceutical companies, came under fire during the Covid-19 pandemic for the uneven distribution of its coronavirus vaccine. The shots disproportionately went to wealthy countries even as they had vaccinated all high-risk groups and poorer nations had administered few—or no—vaccines. The inequality reinvigorated global discussion on whether to waive certain intellectual property rights to life saving vaccines and medicines, which pharmaceutical companies argued would be insufficient to break the bottleneck and boost supply.