Pfizer opens access to portfolio for low-income countries

By Ben Hargreaves

- Last updated on GMT

Pic:getty/zorazhuang
Pic:getty/zorazhuang

Related tags: Pfizer

The company will provide its current and future portfolio of patented medicines to 45 lower-income countries, but the move is not without controversy.

The action, which Pfizer titles ‘An Accord for a Healthier World’, will begin with five countries, Rwanda, Ghana, Malawi, Senegal, and Uganda.

According to the company, the lessons learned in these countries will then inform the roll out to the further 40 lower-income and lower-middle income countries that will make up the complete accord.

Pfizer will work with healthcare officials in the five countries to determine how best to support diagnosis, healthcare professional education and training, as well as supply chain management and infrastructure enhancements.

In total, this will see Pfizer provide 23 medicines and vaccines on a not-for-profit basis, while the company also pledges to provide future patented medicines and vaccines in the same fashion.

The portfolio of medicines made available treat infectious diseases, certain cancers, as well as rare and inflammatory diseases. The company projects that making the treatments available to the 45 countries could potentially save one million individuals, and support the better health of half a million living with chronic disease.

Further work

At the same time as announcing the accord, Pfizer revealed that it would also work to advance the development of vaccines candidates for the prevention of group B streptococcus, with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation provided funding to the project. There are also plans to progress a vaccine against respiratory syncytial virus.

Both Pfizer and the Gates Foundation called upon other ‘health leaders and organizations’ to join the Accord to tackle the global health equity gap.

Bill Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation, stated, “The Accord for a Healthier World could help millions more people in low-income countries get the tools they need to live a healthy life. Pfizer is setting an example for other companies to follow.”

A selfless deed?

The image of Pfizer taking a lead may prove controversial, after the company was able to forecast an expected $52bn​ (€48.5bn) in revenue from its COVID-19 vaccine and treatment in 2022. This followed on from the $36.9bn earned in full year 2021 results.

The People’s Vaccine’s policy advisor, Julia Kosgei, reacted to Pfizer’s announcement with the statement: “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."

Kosgei noted that the decision taken by Pfizer comes a few weeks away from a vote on pharma intellectual property at the World Trade Organization (WTO), and they concluded that it had taken the decision to ‘ease the heat generated’ by questions over the availability of Pfizer’s COVID-19 products since approval.

When asked about this, a spokesperson for Pfizer responded: “We are disappointed that WTO members continue to discuss waiving intellectual property when there is broad consensus that the issue is not COVID-19 vaccine availability but rather vaccine deployment and uptake. There is overwhelming evidence that there is now more than enough global vaccine production capacity to vaccinate the world, including boosters, in 2022.”

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