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Pfizer has agreed to let other drugmakers produce its COVID-19 pill, a decision that could help lower-income countries get better access to the treatment, The Associated Press is reporting.

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In a news release early Tuesday, the pharmaceutical company and the Medicines Patent Pool, a U.N.-backed public health organization, announced that a voluntary licensing agreement had been signed for Pfizer’s investigational treatment for COVID-19. The pill, which has not yet been authorized, is administered along with a low dose of the HIV drug ritonavir, the company said.

If the treatment is approved, generic medicine manufacturers will be able to supply the pill to 95 countries, reaching about 53% of the global population, according to the release.

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“Pfizer remains committed to bringing forth scientific breakthroughs to help end this pandemic for all people,” Pfizer Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement. “We believe oral antiviral treatments can play a vital role in reducing the severity of COVID-19 infections, decreasing the strain on our healthcare systems and saving lives. We must work to ensure that all people – regardless of where they live or their circumstances – have access to these breakthroughs, and we are pleased to be able to work with MPP to further our commitment to equity.”

Charles Gore, executive director of the MPP, added that the license is important because the drug “could play a critical role in saving lives, contributing to global efforts to fight the current pandemic.”

The news comes less than two weeks after Pfizer said it will seek authorization for the pill, which was shown to reduce COVID-19 hospitalizations or deaths by up to 89% among high-risk patients in a Phase 2/3 study.

>> RELATED STORY: Merck agrees to let other drugmakers produce its COVID-19 pill

Last month, Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics signed a similar deal with the MPP for their COVID-19 pill, called molnupiravir. The companies said early results from their Phase 3 clinical trial showed that molnupiravir reduced the risk of hospitalization or death from the illness by about half in the study’s participants, who had underlying health conditions that put them at a higher risk of developing severe COVID-19. On Nov. 4, the United Kingdom became the first country to approve the treatment.

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Read the full release here.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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