Pfizer signs $5.3 billion COVID-19 oral antiviral drug deal with US government

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Pfizer Inc has signed a $5.29 billion deal with the US government to deliver 10 million courses of its COVID-19 oral antiviral drug starting this year, the drugmaker said on Thursday.

The oral drug could be a promising new weapon in the fight against the pandemic, as it can be taken as an early at-home treatment to help prevent COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths.

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Pfizer on Tuesday filed for US authorization of the drug, paxlovid, and 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.

“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,” said Xavier Becerra, secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

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The company earlier this month said the drug cut by 89 percent the chance of hospitalization or death for adults at risk of severe disease.

The trial’s results suggest that Pfizer’s drug surpasses Merck & Co Inc’s pill, molnupiravir, which was shown last month to halve the chance of dying or being hospitalized for COVID-19 patients at high risk of serious illness.

The US government has also signed a contract worth $2.2 billion for courses of the Merck drug.

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