WHO announced Friday in Geneva that it has specifically recommended the use of nirmatrelvir and ritonavir, sold under the brand name Paxlovid, for mild and moderate COVID-19 patients with the highest risk of hospitalization.
Oral antiviral drug developed by Pfizer and is “Best treatment option for high-risk patients to date” United Nations agency said.
“However, availability, lack of price transparency in bilateral agreements made by manufacturers and the requirement for quick and accurate testing prior to use, are making this life-saving drug a a major challenge for low- and middle-income countries”.
Reduce the risk of hospitalization
Paxlovid is particularly recommended for patients with non-severe COVID-19 who are at greatest risk of developing severe illness and being hospitalized, such as those who are unvaccinated, elderly, or immunosuppressed. Translate.
Recommendations are based on new data from two randomized controlled trials involving more than 3,000 patients. The risk of hospitalization was reduced by 85%. In the high-risk group, that means 84 fewer hospitalizations per 1,000 patients.
Use in lower-risk patients is not recommended because the perceived benefits are insignificant.
One obstacle for low- and middle-income countries is that drugs can only be used when the disease is in its early stages, so rapid and accurate testing is essential for successful results.
“Improving access to testing and early diagnosis in primary health care settings will be key to the global rollout of this treatment,” the WHO said.
The UN agency is also concerned that when approached, poorer countries “Will be pushed to the bottom of the queue again”, as happened with the COVID-19 vaccine.
Overall outlook is limited
Moreover, the lack of transparency on the part of manufacturers is making it difficult for public health organizations to get an accurate picture of drug availability, as well as which countries are involved in bilateral transactions. and what they’re paying for.
In addition, a licensing agreement between Pfizer and the United Nations-supported Drug Patent Group (MPP) limits the number of countries that can benefit from generic drug production.
Paxlovid will be included in WHO pre-qualification list as of Friday, but regular products are not yet available from quality assured sources.
Prequalification means that WHO has evaluated a drug and it meets international standards and is therefore eligible for procurement by national health authorities.
Make price transactions transparent
Some companies, many of which are part of licensing agreements, are in discussions with the WHO Prequalification Body, but it may take some time to comply with international standards so they can supply the drug. all around the world.
WHO has recommended that Pfizer be more transparent about its prices and transactions. The pharmaceutical giant is also incentivized to expand the geographic reach of its licensing agreement so that more generic drug makers can produce the drug and deliver it faster and at an affordable price.
In other developments, WHO has also updated its recommendation for another antiviral drug, remdesivir, suggesting that it could be used for patients with mild or moderate COVID-19 at risk of hospitalization.
Recommendations for use for patients with severe or critical COVID-19 are under review.