U.S. President Joe Biden announced Thursday the U.S. has agreed to buy 10 million treatment courses of Pfizer’s new — and yet to be authorized — COVID-19 treatment pill beginning later this year and concluding in 2022.
In a statement on the White House website, the president said his administration is taking steps to ensure these treatments will be easily accessible and free, once it is approved by the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In a release posted to its website Thursday, Pfizer said the U.S. government will pay about $5.29 billion for the pill, marketed as Paxlovid, pending authorization.
When the pill was announced earlier this month, Pfizer said the latest clinical trials showed an 89% reduction in the risk of COVID-19-related hospitalizations and deaths.
Pfizer was the second U.S. drug manufacturer to develop an oral treatment for COVID-19. In October, Merck introduced its COVID-19 pill, which clinical studies showed to provide a 50% reduction in hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19.
The FDA is scheduled to rule on the Merck pill later this month. Britain’s drug regulator already has approved the pill.
The White House announced last month the U.S. already had arranged to buy 1.7 million doses of the Merck pill, with an option to acquire more if needed.
In his statement, Biden said the treatments could prove to be another critical tool in the U.S. arsenal that will accelerate the path out of the pandemic. But he stressed vaccines remain the strongest tools and urged all those who have not done so to get vaccinated.
Some information for this report was provided by The Associated Press, Reuters, and Agence France-Presse.