The U.S. government will pay drug maker Pfizer $ 5.29 billion for 10 million treatments for its potential COVID-19 treatment if regulators allow it, in the nation’s largest coronavirus treatment procurement agreement.
On Tuesday, Pfizer asked the FDA to approve an emergency use of an experimental pill that has been shown to significantly reduce hospitalizations and deaths among people with coronavirus infection.
The FDA is already reviewing a competing pill from Merck and will hold a public meeting later this month.
The cost of a possible Pfizer treatment is about $ 529 per course. The US has already agreed to pay approximately $ 700 for a course of Merck’s drug for approximately 3.1 million procedures.
Pfizer said Thursday that the price paid by the US government reflects the large number of treatments procured through 2022.
President Joe Biden said in a statement that his administration is taking steps to ensure that treatment is “readily available and free.”
“This treatment could prove to be another important tool in our arsenal that will accelerate our recovery from the pandemic,” Biden said, adding that vaccines that protect against the virus remain the most powerful tool.
Pfizer has begun sending out approvals in several other countries, and has entered into preliminary procurement agreements with other governments.
On Tuesday, Pfizer signed an agreement with a UN-backed group to allow generic drug manufacturers to produce low-cost versions of the pill for specific countries. Merck has a similar deal for its pills that was authorized in the UK earlier this month.
Earlier this month, Pfizer said its pills reduced hospital admissions and deaths by 89% among high-risk adults who had early symptoms of COVID-19.
The company studied its pills in people who had not been vaccinated and faced the worst risk of contracting the virus due to age or health problems such as obesity.
Pfizer wants the drug to be available to adults who have mild to moderate COVID-19 infection and who are at risk of serious illness. This is similar to how other drugs are currently used to treat the disease.
But all FDA-approved treatments for COVID-19 require an intravenous injection or injection given by a healthcare professional in a hospital or clinic.
Potential Pfizer treatment is taken twice a day for five days, combined with a second antiviral pill to potentiate its effects.
This year, Pfizer has already generated more than $ 24 billion in global revenue from Comirnaty, its rapidly emerging top-selling COVID-19 vaccine.
New York-based Pfizer Inc. rose less than 2% at the opening of trading on Thursday. They hit a record high of $ 51.86 this summer, surpassing the previous 22-year high.
Pfizer and Merck are seeking approval for their treatments as COVID-19 cases begin to rise again in the United States.
According to Johns Hopkins University, the seven-day moving average for new cases daily approached 87,000 on Wednesday, up from 68,000 at the end of last month.