Brussels considers joint EU purchase of new COVID antiviral pills


The European Commission is actively exploring the joint purchase of new antiviral pills that can be taken at home to treat mild and moderate COVID-19, although some EU countries are pushing ahead with their own deals.

The two pills, Paxlovid from Pfizer and Molnupiravir from Merck (also known as Lagevrio), have been touted as a revolutionary step in the fight against the coronavirus, as the highly contagious variants of Omicron send the number of infections to record levels around the world. The drug stops the virus from multiplying and reduces the severity of the disease.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has already issued an official notice on how to use both treatments: the tablets should be taken twice a day by adults with COVID-19 as soon as possible after testing positive and within five days of the onset of symptoms.

Paxlovid combines two active substances in the form of separate tablets.

The EMA opinion does not amount to a marketing authorization, which is the result of a longer continuous review. The advisory, however, serves as a guide for EU countries deciding to roll out the pills as emergency treatment to deal with high infection and death rates.

Some EU countries, including Germany, Belgium, Italy and Greece, are in contact with pharmaceutical companies to purchase doses. Germany ordered 1 million doses of Pfizer, while Belgium for buy 10,000 doses from each company.

Meanwhile in Brussels, the European Commission is in “exploratory talks” with developers and stands “ready to negotiate” new joint supply contracts, although no deal has yet been signed, a door confirmed. -speak to Euronews.

“The decision to launch a procurement procedure is taken by the participating countries, when at least four countries and the Commission agree to proceed,” noted the official.

Promising therapies

The common regime for antiviral pills should follow the example set by the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines: at the time, the Commission signed contracts with drug manufacturers on behalf of the 27 Member States to ensure distribution equal and affordable throughout the block. .

The executive said its bargaining power as a single market of 450 million citizens allows the EU to get doses at a low and uniform price.

Despite a slow start, the vaccination program is now considered a success, having delivered over a billion doses since December 2020. Nonetheless, the disparate use of vaccines between Member States – particularly in some countries of the Is – shook the final results.

Talks over antiviral pills follow a call from EU leaders at an in-person summit last December. “The implementation of the EU strategy on COVID-19 therapeutic products, including joint procurement, should be continued” the leaders said.

The Commission had previously identified 10 promising therapies to treat coronavirus patients, a list that included the three antiviral pills, including those from Pfizer, Merck and AT-527 from Atea Pharmaceuticals and Roche.

Regulators in the UK and US have already cleared Pfizer and Merck pills and patients can access treatment in hospitals and pharmacies on prescription. United States ordered 20 million courses from Pfizer tablets. For the first order of 10 million courses, signed in November, the US government disbursed 5.29 billion dollars.

“We are in discussion with [over] 100 governments around the world regarding the supply agreements for PAXLOVID, including the European Commission and European governments. Agreements are already in place with several countries, “a Pfizer spokesperson told Euronews.

“Our goal is to deliver this oral antiviral therapy as soon as possible, subject to regulatory approval in the country and in accordance with supply agreements. “

Pfizer’s COVID-19 Antiviral Pill Was found reduce hospitalizations and deaths in high-risk patients by nearly 90%, according to a study by the company.

The results exceed the success of Merck’s product, which is estimated to reduce serious illness or death by about 30 percent, compared to an earlier calculation of 50 percent. The disappointing downgrading of Merck led France to cancel a first order for 50,000 doses.