Pfizer’s oral COVID-19 treatment faces low demand

The perception that the Omicron variant is not severe has hampered demand.

The demand for Pfizer’s antiviral treatment Paxlovid has lagged due to several reasons such as complicated eligibility requirements, potential for drug to drug interactions and reduced testing. The perception that the Omicron variant is not as severe has added to the low demand. “Most of our patients (say) ... 'I'm just going to go home and tough this out,” stated Dr Timothy Hendrix, senior medical director of Advent Health Centra Care in Florida. The oral treatment was anticipated to be a key tool in the fight against COVID-19 after clinical trial data showed that the drug reduced death or hospitalisations by around 90% in high-risk patients. Thousands of people die from COVID-19 every week and there are only a limited amount of proven antiviral treatments available.

There has been a rise in infections as of late, however, Paxlovid supply has surpassed demand in South Korea, United States (U.S.) , Japan and the United Kingdom. The pharmaceutical giant aims to produce 210 million courses for the year of 2022 and anticipates at least $22 billion in sales. Pfizer has produced 3.5 million of the 20 million courses promised to the U.S this year. Though the U.S. is the largest publicly known buyer, the first half of April saw 1.5 million courses distributed with over 500,000 courses still available. "Nationally, the number of COVID-19 cases is low and so too is overall utilization of COVID-19 therapeutics," noted the Department of Health and Human Services in a statement. The company stated that is has initiated talks with 100 government for the oral treatment.