Pfizer Inc intends to offer its full portfolio of brand-name pharmaceuticals at cost in up to 45 low-income countries, including Laos and Cambodia.
The move is one of the most extensive and ambitious drug-access initiatives ever undertaken by a multinational pharmaceutical company.
Bangkok Post reports that the initiative will begin in five African countries with 23 medications for cancer, rare illnesses, inflammatory conditions, and infectious diseases. It will eventually encompass all future medicines or vaccines developed by the New York-based business.
Pfizer says the pharmaceuticals will be offered at the cost of production, which is often a fraction of the price in US or European markets. The corporation also intends to invest in local health systems in order to improve diagnostic skills, get the treatments licensed, and ensure clinicians understand how to use them.
The company has sold its Covid-19 vaccine in lower-income countries for about USD 7 a dose compared with USD 19.50 in the US.
For Covid and other illnesses, other drugmakers have run similar low-cost programs, but for most drug categories, many of the newest, most advanced therapies can take years to reach low-income markets.
“There is very little work that is happening in non-infectious diseases,” Pfizer Chief Executive Officer Albert Bourla said in an interview ahead of the announcement at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
“We know very well that cancer exists in Africa and kills a lot of people, that cardiovascular diseases exist in Africa and kills a lot of people. And there is no reason for this to happen, other than that they didn’t have the medicines.”
Following Wednesday’s announcement, Pfizer will open up the program to any other low-income country, as well as nations that have transitioned from low to lower-middle-income in the last decade, as defined by the World Bank.
This includes much of sub-Saharan Africa, and countries in Asia and the Middle East including Bangladesh, Cambodia, Laos, Syria, and Yemen.
The World Bank defines low-income countries as those where the per capita gross national income is less than about USD 1,000 a year.
Since 2000, life expectancy in lower-income countries has grown by about 10 years, partly because of a focus on treating infectious diseases, according to a draft report by the World Health Organization.
But the numbers still badly trail high-income countries, where the average person can expect to live to over 80, compared with less than 65 years old in those poorer regions.