Pfizer plans to ramp up antiviral pill production in fight against Omicron variant

USA – Pfizer CEO, Albert Bourla has confirmed the company’s plans to increase production of its Paxlovid antiviral treatment in order to combat the spread of the new Omicron variant.

Bourla has said that the drugmaker has committed to producing 80 million doses of Paxlovid, a developing antiviral, up from the previous target of 50 million.

The efficacy data for Pfizer’s oral COVID-19 drug now look so promising that the Big Pharma company is increasing manufacturing capacity even before the FDA’s anticipated emergency use authorization.

Scientists and health officials have yet to determine whether Omicron is resistant to vaccine or natural immunity, with the World Health Organization warning that determining its full potential could take “several weeks.”

Bourla also stated that Pfizer has developed a new template that could expedite the development of a new vaccine to combat Omicron, adding that the drugmaker has the capacity to produce up to 4 billion doses next year.

Pfizer has applied to the FDA for an emergency use authorization for Paxlovid and has signed a contract for US$5.29 billion to provide 10 million courses to the US government by 2022.

At US$530 per tablet, the price is roughly 25% less than the US$700 agreed upon with Merck & Co. last month to purchase 1.7 million doses of its’ molnupiravir’ treatment of “mild-to-moderate Covid in adults who are at risk of progressing to severe forms of disease, or hospitalization.”

Meanwhile, Merck’s rival COVID pill has hit surprise efficacy setback after reporting that the risk reduction in hospitalization and death from its Ridgeback Therapeutics-partnered COVID antiviral, molnupiravir, fell from 50% to 30% in the final analysis.

The updated result raised hopes for increased demand for Paxlovid, which has been shown to reduce risk by 89 percent in outpatients.

With molnupiravir’s efficacy dwindling and Roche’s withdrawal from its Atea Pharmaceuticals-partnered COVID pill program, Pfizer appears to be the undisputed king of oral COVID treatment.

Meanwhile, Pfizer has announced that it will invest up to US$1 billion in the manufacturing and distribution of the COVID drug, including the potential hiring of contract manufacturers.

It is unclear whether the additional courses will be provided by Pfizer’s own facilities or by third-party providers.

The emergence of a new coronavirus variant, omicron, raised questions about the efficacy of existing vaccines and therapeutics. Despite these concerns, Bourla believes Paxlovid will continue to be effective.

Accordingly, vaccine manufacturing companies have swiftly swung into action to investigate and adapt their vaccines to the new and highly mutated strain of the virus.

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