The U.S. government has signed a deal to purchase 10 million courses of Pfizer’s antiviral Covid-19 pill, the company announced Thursday, the latest in a string of purchases as officials secure limited supplies of new coronavirus treatments.
The U.S. will spend around $5.3 billion on Pfizer’s drug, Paxlovid, the company said, conditional on it being approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Pfizer said it will start delivering the courses later this year and will complete the order in 2022.
The deal adds to a growing U.S. stockpile of new therapies that experts feel could mark a turning point in the pandemic.
The U.S. signed two deals with Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics to buy 3.1 million courses of another antiviral pill, molnupiravir, which regulators are expected to review at the end of November.
Oral antivirals could change the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, turning the virus into something that is easily treatable outside of hospital settings. Pfizer said Paxlovid—a combination of a Covid-19 antiviral agent and ritonavir, an antiviral used to treat HIV—can slash the risk of hospitalization or death from Covid-19 by 89% if taken shortly after the onset of symptoms, while Merck said molnupiravir can cut the risk in half. While neither have been approved in the U.S., the U.K. greenlit molnupiravir on an emergency basis in early November, the first country in the world to do so. Supply is likely to be a key constraining factor, and both companies have signed deals to share the poll with low income nations and ramp up production.