Pfizer boss details investment into vaccine technologies
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Ministers were urged to buy enough of the “wonder-pill” for every GP surgery in the country after the stunning results. But plans were reportedly halted after experts warned that the expensive drug could be sidestepped by Covid resistance if distributed too widely among the general population. The UK has ordered 250,000 courses of the new Pfizer pill, known as Paxlovid.
This compares to 500,000 ordered by Australia, one million by Canada and 10 million by the US.
But now the Government has been accused of being “asleep at the wheel” as the Omicron variant begins to dominate the country.
The Pfizer pill has also been shown to be effective against the strain and it is expected to be approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency by the end of the year.
Lord Bilimoria, president of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said he had been personally lobbying ministers for months to secure millions more courses.
He told the Telegraph: “The Government needs to be ordering millions of courses, not 250,000. That’s not nearly enough.
“These drugs are truly game-changing. We need every GP in the country to have a stock of these tablets.
“The moment somebody older tests positive, they go to their GP, and they take the tablets for five days.
“This should be our second line of defence behind vaccines.”
Lord Bilimoria said action should have been taken earlier.
He added” “If we had shown more urgency and supported the pharmaceutical companies, we could have got these much earlier in time for omicron.
“If the vaccines task force could do it so quickly, please put the same effort into antivirals.
“We shouldn’t be waiting for regulatory approval to get large orders in. Getting this right could be game over for Covid.”
The Pfizer pills are expensive at around £375 for each course, but Lord Bilimoria said it could save the economy.
The UK has already ordered nearly twice as many courses – 480,000 – of another antiviral drug, molnupiravir.
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This was initially said to have an efficacy of 50 per cent but has since been revised down to 30 per cent among hospital patients.
It has already been approved by the MHRA.
Senior health sources reportedly told the Telegraph that the effort to secure these antiviral pills had not been “as urgent” as the vaccines.
One is quoted as saying: ““Were they asleep at the wheel? Probably.”
Speaking this week after clinical trials showed the drug was 89 percent effective, Pfizer chief scientific officer Mikael Dolsten said: “We’re talking about a staggering number of lives saved and hospitalisations prevented.
“And of course, if you deploy this quickly after infection, we are likely to reduce transmission dramatically.”
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