American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer said on Wednesday that it will distribute over two dozen medicines ‘at cost’ to 45 of the world’s poorest countries, including its COVID-19 vaccines.
The U.S. drugmaker made the announcement during the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, with the goal of increasing health equity in 45 low-income nations. The majority of the nations are in Africa, although Haiti, Syria, Cambodia, and North Korea are also on the list.
Aside from selling the drugs at manufacturing prices, the company also pledged that distribution costs will also be minimal. The drugs giant has long been criticized for raking in huge profits from its coronavirus-related vaccines and medications.
In an ambitious move to widen access to its medical products the company said it plans to provide nearly two dozen patent-protected medicines and vaccines, which are already available in the U.S. or European Union, at not-for-profit prices and give access to these medications to around 1.2 billion people in the 45 poor countries.
The program called ‘An Accord for a Healthier World’ will cover the selling of 23 patented medicines and vaccines which treat infectious and rare inflammatory diseases and certain cancers.
The giant pharmaceutical, which makes one of the two available mRNA-based coronavirus vaccines, said making these medicines and vaccines more readily available has the potential to treat non-communicable and infectious diseases that claim the lives of nearly one million people each year in these countries and chronic diseases that significantly impact the quality of life for at least half a million more.
The drugmaker also plans to provide help with public education, training for health care providers, and drug supply management.
“As we learned in the global COVID-19 vaccine rollout, supply is only the first step to helping patients. We will work closely with global health leaders to make improvements in diagnosis, education, infrastructure, storage, and more. Only when all the obstacles are overcome can we end healthcare inequities and deliver for all patients,” said Pfizer Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Albert Bourla.
“This commitment will include all future Pfizer medicines and vaccines as they are discovered and launched,” added the Pfizer CEO.
Responding to news that Pfizer will sell patented drugs at a “nonprofit” price to some countries, Julia Kosgei, Policy advisor to the People’s Vaccine Alliance, in a press statement said:
“After prioritizing selling higher-priced doses to rich countries throughout the pandemic while millions died without access to COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, Albert Bourla seems keen to improve Pfizer’s reputation. But taking half-measures on equity won’t cut it.”
“It’s right that some countries will not have to pay Pfizer’s rip-off prices for certain vaccines and treatments. But Pfizer is once again gate-keeping who can and can’t manufacture and access these lifesaving vaccines and medicines. Many lower-middle and middle-income countries will continue to pay through the nose for lifesaving drugs they can’t afford. And this is all too little too late for the millions who died while Pfizer made record profits,” she said.
The Covid-19 pandemic has been lucrative for Pfizer as its revenues last year doubled to $81.3bn. It made almost $26bn in revenues in the first three months of this year partly from Comirnaty, its coronavirus vaccine developed jointly with Germany’s BioNTech pharmaceutical company and its pill used to treat the virus.