Pfizer’s COVID-19 antiviral tablet is strongly recommended’ by the WHO

The World Health Organization said on Friday that Pfizer’s Covid-19 antiviral tablet Paxlovid is “highly recommended” for people with milder types of the disease who are nonetheless in danger of hospitalisation.

However, the UN agency expressed “grave worry” that the access disparities seen with Covid vaccinations would result in low- and middle-income countries being “pushed to the back of the line.”

According to the WHO’s specialists in the BMJ medical journal, Pfizer’s combination of Nirmatrelvir and Ritonavir was the “better choice” of treatment for unvaccinated, aged, or immunocompromised persons with Covid. For the same patients, the WHO issued a “conditional (weak) recommendation” for Gilead Sciences’ antiviral medication remdesivir, which it had previously advised against.

Paxloid for COVID-19

Paxlovid was recommended by the WHO over Remdesivir, Merck’s molnupiravir tablet, and monoclonal antibodies. According to the WHO’s specialists, Pfizer’s oral therapy reduces hospitalization better than “existing alternatives,” has fewer worries about hazards than molnupiravir, and is easier to administer than intravenous remdesivir and antibodies.

Paxlovid lowered the risk of hospital admission by 85 percent in two trials involving approximately 3,100 participants, according to the new guideline. The trials also “indicated no significant difference in mortality” and “little or no risk of treatment cessation due to side effects.” The advice is for anyone over the age of 18, but not for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

It also doesn’t apply to people who have a low risk of disease consequences because the benefit would be negligible.

WHO specialists also failed to provide an opinion for people

Due to a paucity of data, WHO specialists also failed to provide an opinion for people with severe manifestations of the disease. The WHO, on the other hand, emphasized the antiviral medicines’ limits. They explained, “The treatment can only be given while the sickness is in its early stages.”

This requires people to test positive immediately and be prescribed the tablet by a doctor, all of which can be difficult for low- and middle-income nations, according to the WHO. Covid tablets, on the other hand, have been hailed as a potentially game-changing move in ending the pandemic because they can be taken at home rather than in a hospital. Patients must begin taking Paxlovid pills within five days of the onset of symptoms, with a five-day treatment following.

Remdesivir must be taken within seven days of the onset of symptoms, and it is given intravenously over three days. For Paxlovid, the WHO has asked Pfizer to “make its price and arrangements more transparent.” According to Lisa Hedman, the WHO’s senior advisor on access to medicines, a full course of Paxlovid costs $530 in the United States, according to NPR. Another unsubstantiated source told WHO that the price in an upper-middle-income country was $250.

Meanwhile, Remdesivir costs $520, according to Hedman, although generic versions made in India sell for $53-$64. There’s also the question of whether or not the virus will develop resistance to these therapies. However, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla forecast a bright future for therapies like Paxlovid earlier this month, as consumers tire of having booster vaccines.

Pfizer has agreed to let select generic drugmakers around the world create cheaper versions of Paxlovid under an UN-backed system after coming under fire for prioritizing wealthier countries with its COVID-19 vaccine. On Friday, however, the World Health Organization (WHO) “highly recommended” that Pfizer allow other generic manufacturers to create the medicine and “make it available quickly and at affordable rates.” 

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