The Philippines is in talks with Pfizer to procure its oral antiviral treatment Paxlovid, Health Secretary Francisco Duque said on Wednesday.
The Department of Health, Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez, and Pfizer representatives met earlier Wednesday to discuss the procurement, Duque said.
“The meeting with the ambassador and Pfizer representatives earlier this morning was positive,” he said during a virtual public briefing.
“They discussed what’s the fastest way so that we can secure treatment courses for Paxlovid,” he said.
Paxlovid is a combination of two pills taken over five days that was shown in a clinical trial of 2,200 people to be safe and reduced the risk of hospitalizations and deaths among at-risk people by 88 percent when taken within 5 days of symptom onset.
The Food and Drug Administration earlier granted emergency use authorization to antiviral drug molnupiravir.
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden announced Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) a doubling of US government purchases of the Pfizer therapeutic pills designed to combat the worst effects of COVID-19.
At a meeting with his White House pandemic response team, Biden said the new order would take the stockpile to 20 million from 10 million pills.
“These pills are going to dramatically decrease hospitalizations and deaths,” he said. “We already placed the largest order in the world. Now I’m doubling that order.”
The US FDA regulatory body granted emergency use authorization on December 22 for Pfizer’s Paxlovid tablets.
The initial government purchase of 10 million antiviral treatments, which are aimed at those facing a high-risk from COVID-19, cost $5.3 billion.
The United States, like other countries around the world, is seeing a huge surge in infections from the COVID Omicron variant.
So far, also in keeping with data internationally, the strain seems mostly only to cause serious illness in those who have not been vaccinated.
“This continues to be a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Biden said.
“Be concerned about Omicron but don’t be alarmed,” he added. However, “if you’re unvaccinated… some will die, needlessly die.”