U.S. pharma giant Pfizer on Tuesday said it will make its entire portfolio of drugs and vaccines available to low-income countries on a not-for-profit basis, significantly expanding an earlier scheme as the industry comes under renewed fire for affordability amid high drug prices and large profits.
Pfizer said it would make its entire portfolio of medicines and vaccines available on a not-for-profit basis to 45 low-income countries.
The move, announced at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, will expand access to around 500 of the firm’s products for some 1.2 billion people living in the world’s poorest countries including Afghanistan, Haiti, North Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Rwanda, Uganda, Senegal, Eritrea and Cambodia.
It will include patented and off-patent medicines for which Pfizer has global rights such as chemotherapies and oral cancer treatments, which Pfizer said have the potential to treat nearly 1 million new cancer cases in covered countries each year.
The scheme also includes a “wide range of antibiotics,” which the firm said will help address the costs and risks associated with antimicrobial resistance and help prevent around 1.5 million deaths from bacterial infections in hospitals and community health clinics each year.
Pfizer said it will add new vaccines and medicines to the not-for-profit scheme as they are launched.
The announcement marks a significant expansion of Pfizer’s “An Accord for a Healthier World” initiative, which launched last year. The Accord made 23 of Pfizer’s patented products available on a not-for-profit basis including its antiviral Covid treatment paxlovid, vaccines and its top cancer fighting drugs. It comes at a tricky time for the pharmaceutical industry, which has long faced scrutiny over its prices and profits, and Pfizer in particular has been in the spotlight in recent years. The firm, which jointly produces one of the world’s leading Covid vaccines and one of the only effective antiviral treatments, has been accused of profiteering during the Covid-19 pandemic as its profits soared amid vast inequities in access. It is a defining and divisive area of doing business in the pharmaceutical sector, where patents are used to reward innovators by granting them exclusivity and allowing them to set prices without competition. Prices can be high, often too high for even those in wealthy countries to afford, let alone those in poorer nations. Firms typically justify their pricing based on the high costs associated with bringing new treatments and vaccines to market, many of which fail in development. Critics point to the apparent mismatch between pharma profits and research costs, slamming the sector’s opacity surrounding how much it actually costs to bring something to market, the significant amounts of public money going towards research and development and big spending on shareholder rewards and non-research costs like marketing.
Source : Forbes