President Joe Biden Tuesday directed the federal government to double its purchase of Pfizer’s oral antiviral treatment, Paxlovid. This addition increases the U.S. total purchase from Pfizer from 10 million to 20 million therapeutic courses of the new pill.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the emergency use of Paxlovid last month for the treatment of COVID-19 in patients over the age of 12.
“These pills are going to dramatically decrease hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19,” said Biden in a speech Jan. 4. “They’re a game changer and have the potential to dramatically alter the impact of COVID-19.”
The White House says 10 million courses of the new treatment will be delivered by the end of June, with the remaining 10 million to follow by the end of September, according to an announcement from Pfizer.
“I’m pleased to say that on Christmas Eve, we shipped out the first batch of these pills that we purchased and received, and more will be shipped this week,” Biden said.
Biden says production of the pills is in “full swing,” but he also notes the complex chemistry involved in manufacturing the pills.
“It takes months, literally, to make a pill,” Biden said.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, now marketed as Comirnaty, in August, and it remains the only vaccine with FDA approval.
Dr. Robert Malone, a trailblazer in the original development of mRNA vaccines, has called into question pauses placed on studies of what may otherwise be competing COVID-19 therapeutics to the new Pfizer pill, namely ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine.
The ivermectin arm of a trial on possible treatments for COVID-19 at the University of Oxford in England was “paused due to temporary supply issues” last month, according to the trial’s website.
“Either they’re grossly incompetent at the University of Oxford or they’re lying,” Malone told Fox news Dec. 18.
Meanwhile, other experts have come out to say that the Pfizer pill has nothing in common with ivermectin.
“The only way they are alike is that they are both pills,” Dr. William A. Petri, professor of infectious diseases at the University of Virginia, told the Associated Press.
A study published last summer in the American Journal of Therapeutics found that “using ivermectin early in the clinical course may reduce numbers progressing to severe disease.”
When asked Tuesday whether the administration had considered any other COVID therapeutics for purchase, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the White House hadn’t ruled anything out and is “going to continue to build on the orders [it’s] done to date.”
“This is just the recent step to expand what we have in our medicine cabinet,” said Psaki.
The United States reported a record of more than a million new COVID-19 cases Monday, but those results could be due in part to a delay in cases reported over the holiday weekend.
Biden says the recent wave of new cases is a cause for “concern” but not “alarm,” adding that those who remained unvaccinated could suffer severe illness from the virus.