Pfizer Paxlovid prescriptions to treat Covid have increased tenfold in the United States since the end of February

Pfizer said on Tuesday that prescriptions for its oral antiviral to treat Covid-19 had increased tenfold in the United States since late February, as more pharmacies and other places were stocked.

CEO Albert Bourla, in a Tuesday morning conference call, said nearly 80,000 patients were treated with Paxlovid in the United States in the week ending April 22, compared to about 8,000 patients at the end of February. More than 33,000 sites in the United States are now supplied with Paxlovid, Bourla said, a fourfold increase from February.

Pfizer shares rose more than 1% in Tuesday afternoon trading.

Paxlovid supply was limited when antiviral first rolled out over winter, but Pfizer is ramping up production with 6 million courses produced until the end of March, according to Bourla. Pfizer is on track to manufacture 30 million courses in the first half of 2022 and 120 million by the end of the year, Bourla said.

Pfizer reported $1.5 billion in first-quarter sales of Paxlovid on Tuesday and maintained its $22 billion sales forecast for 2022. Angela Hwang, head of biopharmaceuticals at Pfizer, told analysts on Tuesday that the Demand for the antiviral will increase as nations rearrange doses and lower the age of eligibility.

Covid transmission will increase as governments ease public health restrictions, and Paxlovid will play an important role in treating those infected, Hwang said. Pfizer doesn’t have inventory on hand because every manufactured dose is shipped out, she said.

The United States has ordered a total of 20 million Paxlovid courses, with delivery of the first 10 million courses to be completed in June and execution of the next 10 million scheduled for September, according to the Biden administration. In the United States, patients had used more than 500,000 courses of Paxlovid by the end of April, a senior administration official told reporters last month.

The White House is accelerating the distribution of Paxlovid as a key part of its Covid strategy. The Department of Health and Human Services aims to bring the antiviral to 40,000 locations across the country. The United States has set up at least 2,200 sites where people can receive Paxlovid as soon as they test positive for the virus, including pharmacies, community health centers and long-term care facilities.

The Food and Drug Administration authorized Paxlovid in December for adults and children ages 12 and older infected with Covid and at risk of serious illness from the virus. The FDA cleared Merck’s molnupiravir soon after, but said it should only be used for adults 18 and older who don’t have access to Paxlovid or other Covid treatments.

Paxlovid was more effective and had a better safety profile than molnupiravir in clinical trials. Pfizer’s antiviral reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by 90% in adults with Covid and at risk of developing serious illness. Molnupiravir reduced the risk of hospitalization and death by 30% in clinical trials in Covid patients at risk of severe disease.

Paxlovid now has a 90% market share over Merck’s molnupiravir in the U.S. retail pharmacy, long-term care and mail-order markets, Bourla said. The antiviral is now licensed in more than 60 countries and Pfizer is in talks to bring the treatment to other markets, he said.

Patients prescribed Paxlovid take three tablets twice a day for five days. The course includes two nirmatrelvir pills developed by Pfizer and one tablet of ritonavir, a widely used HIV drug. Nirmatrelvir inhibits an enzyme that the Covid virus uses to reproduce itself, and ritonavir slows the patient’s metabolism so that the drug remains active in the body for a longer period.

While Paxlovid is effective in preventing hospitalization and death in people who already have Covid, it failed to prevent infection with the virus in clinical trial results released Friday.

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