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AR Illustration by Jonathan Hill

Doses of the anti-viral drug Paxlovid are displayed in New York. (AP Photo/Stephanie Nano, File)

From The Asian Reporter, V33, #11 (November 6, 2023), page 9.

COVID-19 treatments to enter the market with a hefty price tag

By Amanda Seitz

The Associated Press

AR Illustration by Jonathan Hill

WASHINGTON — The COVID-19 treatments millions of Americans have taken for free from the federal government are entering the private market with a hefty price tag.

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer is setting the price for a five-day treatment of Paxlovid at $1,390, but Americans can still access the pills at no cost — for now. The less commonly used COVID-19 treatment Lagevrio, manufactured by Merck, also hit the market.

Millions of free, taxpayer-funded courses of the pills will remain at pharmacies, hospitals, and doctor’s offices across the country, according to U.S. Health and Human Services officials. People on private insurance may start to notice copays for the treatments once their pharmacy or doctor’s office runs out of the COVID-19 treatments they received from the government.

The U.S. government initially inked a deal with Pfizer to pay more than $5 billion for 10 million courses of Paxlovid in 2021.

Under a new agreement reached between Pfizer and the federal government, people on Medicaid, Medicare, or those who are without medical insurance will not pay any out-of-pocket costs for the treatment through the end of next year. Pfizer will also offer copay assistance for the treatment through 2028. The Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense, and Indian Health Service will still be able to access the Paxlovid the government has on hand. The government will also get 1 million treatment courses to keep in its stockpile.

Suppliers to pharmacies, doctor’s offices, and hospitals can now order the treatments from the drug companies.

"Pfizer is committed to a smooth commercial transition and is working collaboratively with the U.S. government and healthcare stakeholders to ensure broad and equitable access to this important medicine for all eligible patients," the company said in an e-mailed statement to The Associated Press.

Paxlovid has been used to treat COVID-19 since 2021, but the Food and Drug Administration granted full approval earlier this year for it to be used on adults with coronavirus who face high risks of hospitalization or death. That group typically includes older adults and those with medical conditions like diabetes, asthma, and obesity.

Full-year revenue for Paxlovid and Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, Comirnaty, is expected to be approximately $12.5 billion.

Merck has not confirmed a list price yet for its Lagevrio treatment but said in a statement to AP that it will also offer the treatment free to patients "who, without assistance, could not otherwise afford the product."

Associated Press reporter Tom Murphy in Indianapolis contributed to this report.

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