COVID-19 is still one of the world’s epidemiological priorities, although with medical advances that have mitigated the impact of the disease. Along this path, pharmaceutical companies are advancing in the development of antivirals, and now their sights are set beyond vaccines to mitigate the spread of the disease, as happened during 2020.
Two years away, the pandemic has not ceased, but the medical advances have not slowed down its development either. Now, companies like Pfizer have gone from creating vaccines to developing treatments to care for patients with this disease who are still at risk due to the appearance of new variables.
Carlos Murillo, regional president for Pfizer in Latin America , explains that the pharmaceutical company continues to monitor changes in the Sars-Cov-2 virus and the response of its vaccine, which still has a good level of coverage against the disease, while waiting authorizations for a new version of the vaccine focused on new variants of the disease.
Even the American has already started with the manufacture of this new version of its vaccine, to begin its deployment as soon as they receive the approval of the health authorities in the United States and each of the countries where the antiviral will be applied.
“The company is already working on this again, it is already being produced so that by the time the authorizations are obtained, it can be sent directly to the countries and we estimate that it will be available during the second half of the year , I cannot arrive and give an exact date because it is subject to regulatory provisions,” Murillo said.
The manager explains that, despite the high vaccination rate in Mexico and Latin America, the low application worldwide is one of the factors that drives the mutation of the COVID-19 virus. With the variants of the virus, the focus is on keeping research and innovations on this path to face the new waves of the disease.
As part of these innovations, the pharmaceutical company has already begun distributing its Paxlovid treatment for patients with severe COVID, an antiviral that has an 87% effectiveness rate in reducing hospitalization rates in high-risk patients.
In Mexico, the federal government announced in January the purchase of 300,000 antiviral treatments , which on August 4 were delivered by the Health Institute for Well-being (Insabi) to the National Institute of Respiratory Diseases (INER) “Ismael Cosío Villegas”, for treat people with severe COVID-19.
“Mexico is the second country in Latin America (after Panama) that is making the drug available for these high-risk patients, and I think that is a super important thing because in reality, unfortunately no matter how much we vaccinate, with this high viral load there are still people who are going to get infected and some of these high-risk people now have the ability to access this highly effective treatment,” he says.
Neither the government nor the company have made public the cost of these treatments, which will be distributed through the public health system; however, last May, the director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, declared at a press conference that it was an expensive drug.
To date, 26 million units of this treatment have been distributed around the world in countries in Europe, the United States and Canada. In Mexico, negotiations are open to increase the dose if necessary, since it is difficult to estimate how much medication will be required.
“The company has been able to put all its production capacities back in record time and then the product is available,” adds Murillo, who has defended the price of the antiviral in forums and conferences.
The pharmaceutical company has maintained alliances with the government since the beginning of the pandemic. Of the 224.3 million vaccines supplied in the country as of June 14, 23% are from Pfizer , down from 49.5% of doses from AstraZeneca, according to federal government data.
Earnings and medical research
So far, Paxlovid vaccines and treatment have driven the company’s global sales to a record level during the second quarter of this year, in which it reported a turnover of 27.7 billion dollars , which represents an increase of 47% in its comparison. annual.
Pfizer’s Covid vaccine added $8.8 billion to revenue, while Paxlovid sales totaled $8.1 billion , according to the drugmaker’s financial statement, which kept its annual sales projection for the year at $32 billion. the vaccine and 22,000 million for Paxlovid.
“The vaccine and this antiviral treatment have been very important for the company in 2021 and 2022, they have represented almost 50% of our turnover and thus represent 100% growth for the company,” Murillo said. Pfizer invests approximately 15% of its turnover in research and development.
Without disclosing data, Carlos Murillo declared that Mexico is one of the countries in Latin America with the highest growth in 2020 and 2021 for the company, with an opportunity for investments in clinical research, given that progress has been made in various studies of future molecules made in Mexico. . 11% of the clinical studies that Pfizer carries out globally are carried out in the country.
“The challenge that the countries in Latin America have, and what we have to work on, are the regulatory frameworks and more efficient and faster processes that allow us to be more competitive with the rest of the world in order to attract more investment in the clinical area. Our countries should be able to capture a larger portion of that, we have the capabilities, we have the means, we have the populations that can benefit from this.”
Pfizer arrived in Mexico in 1951, marking 71 years in the country. In 1958 it opened its pharmaceutical plant in Toluca, in the State of Mexico, and 70% of its production is for local consumption and 30% is exported to Latin America.