The Biden administration is intended to purchase 10 million courses of Pfizer’s Covid-19 antiviral pill as regulators weigh whether to clear the medication, which has been found to substantially decrease hospitalizations and deaths from the coronavirus.
Initially, the federal government contemplated buying 5 million courses of treatment. A course requires a patient to consume two pills over five days. However, President Joe Biden told officials to double the number after witnessing how fruitful the treatment was in data Pfizer released this month. The contract is yet to be finalized.
The deal, along with another one worth $2.2 billion for purchasing above 3 million doses of another antiviral pill to treat Covid, would give the U.S. another tool to combat the pandemic, and it could substantially benefit those who remain unvaccinated, as they are at significantly greater risk of hospitalization or death.
Data released so far feature detailed treatment exclusively for unvaccinated people. It is uncertain if the Food and Drug Administration would approve the drugs as well, for vaccinated people.
Even with almost 70 percent of fully vaccinated adults, new case numbers are on the rise as the weather grows colder in Northern states. Public health officials have started alerting that another surge could be on the way.
Pfizer asked the FDA to let its pill be used for treating the virus on Tuesday, and regulators will meet later this month to review the other treatment.
Pfizer said its new treatment minimized hospitalizations and deaths by 89 percent among high-risk people. It has to be consumed within three days of the onset of symptoms, which needs access to quick test results.
It will be time-consuming for the U.S. to avail of all those doses. Pfizer expects to have only sufficient pills to cater to 100,000 to 200,000 patients this year.
The U.S. will get an option to purchase 2 million more courses of Merck’s treatment. It’ll be sufficient to treat 15 million people between the two drugmakers.