A United Nations agency has announced that US pharmaceutical firm Pfizer – which co-created one of the most widely used vaccines against the coronavirus – has accorded approval to license companies to create generic versions of a drug designed to minimize the effect of the disease.

A group called the Medicines Patent Pool will decide which firms are to be part of the programme, according to Unit aid, a UN agency originally created to help find cheaper supply lines of medicines against HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis for poor countries.

The drug to be licensed is currently known as PF-07321332 and helps by minimizing the toll Covid-19 takes on a patient. Phase 3 testing at the beginning of this month already showed promise. It has applied for regulatory approval.

The license should give manufacturers in 95 countries – home to 53 per cent of the world’s population – the right to produce the drug.

It is still unknown how much the generic version will cost or what the price difference will be between the version distributed by Pfizer and the generic one.

So long as the coronavirus pandemic is considered a public health emergency of international concern by the World Health Organization, Pfizer will not receive any licensing fees. Even when the emergency ends, none will likely be expected from the poorest countries.

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