Pfizer introduces cheaper version of drug used to treat tuberculosis, blood diseases

Since the poor can’t afford pricier life-saving medication, Pfizer is introducing its cheaper version of life-saving medication in Uganda, Tanzania, and Rwanda. The company also announced in May it would enter a similar partnership in Kenya.

According to the World Health Organization, nearly one in 10 children in the developing world is missing out on lifesaving medicine because they can’t afford it. Some 3 million people die every year from drug-resistant tuberculosis or blood diseases.

More than 500 million people worldwide depend on the weekly pneumococcal vaccine (PCV), which Pfizer offers at $49.80 per dose and the generic version of the American therapeutic drug Emvirid goes for $4.45. As of July, Pfizer will sell the cheaper generic version of Emvirid from its Swiss manufacturing plant in Skien, Switzerland. It was previously produced by Hospira Inc., Pfizer’s former division, which the company sold in 2015 to Johnson & Johnson.

Both Pfizer and Pfizer Pharmaceutical Company will be contributing toward the cost of the new generic version of Emvirid to help alleviate the need for such vaccines, according to a company statement. The generic version, made from uridine salts, was developed in 2014 and will also be distributed in Uganda, Tanzania, and Rwanda. In Kenya, Pfizer will train pharmacists to administer the drug for free.

According to some analysts, generic alternatives to expensive drugs are coming into use as a result of the criticism companies have received from governments and consumers. Health economist Francesco Cappuccio, Ph.D., who directs the University of Connecticut’s School of Health Policy & Management and who advised the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on drug pricing, told The New York Times in April: “All drug companies have come under increasing pressure from the public and governments to cut prices and reduce some of the monopolies they often enjoy, whether in pricing for injectable drugs or developing markets for generic drugs.”

According to the Drug Pricing Watch site, governments are paying an average of 53 percent more for certain AIDS drugs. Generic versions also can reduce the need for new HIV therapies, which cost more than $6,000 per treatment.

In 2015, the World Health Organization released guidelines calling for companies to reduce the price of generic drugs and to make them available at costs below those of the original name-brand version.

However, the generic version of Pfizer’s pneumococcal vaccine still costs more than the more common version made by drug manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline.

Read the full story at The New York Times.


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