WHO “strongly recommends” Paxlovid, calls for wide distribution from Pfizer

pharmafile | April 22, 2022 | News story | Medical Communications  

WHO has endorsed the use of Pfizer’s oral antiviral treatment for high-risk patients with mild COVID-19, following an analysis of trial data in which the therapy demonstrated a dramatic cut to the risk of hospitalisation among these patients. The organisation has called for wide geographical distribution of Paxlovid, and transparency from Pfizer. 

The WHO recommendation for nirmatrelvir and ritonavir, sold under the name Paxlovid, is for those with non-severe COVID-19, who are at highest risk of developing severe disease and hospitalisation. This patient group includes the unvaccinated, the elderly, and those who are immunosuppressed or immunocompromised.

WHO have shared in a press release that Paxlovid represents “the best therapeutic choice for high-risk patients to date”, adding, however, that “availability, lack of transparency, in bilateral deals made by the producer, and the need for prompt and accurate testing before administering it, are turning this life-saving medicine into a major challenge for low- and middle-income countries.”

The organisation recommended against the use of Paxlovid in patients at lower risk, describing the benefits of its use in this group as “negligible”.

WHO’s recommendation is based on new data from two randomised controlled trials involving 3078 patients, with data showing that the risk of hospitalisation was reduced by 85% among high-risk patients, following this treatment. In a high-risk group – one with over 10% risk of hospitalisation – this translates to 84 fewer hospitalisations per 1000 patients.

The organisation is, however, “extremely concerned” that the same issue as arose with COVID-19 vaccines will emerge with Paxlovid – namely, that low- and middle-income countries “will again be pushed to the end of the queue when it comes to accessing this treatment”.

WHO continued: “Lack of transparency on the part of the originator company is making it difficult for public health organizations to obtain an accurate picture of the availability of the medicine, which countries are involved in bilateral deals and what they are paying. In addition, a licensing agreement made by Pfizer with the Medicines Patent Pool limits the number of countries that can benefit from generic production of the medicine.”

The recommendation on remdesivir, another antiviral medicine, has also been updated by WHO.

Ana Ovey

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