Canada secures orders of Merck, Pfizer COVID-19 antiviral pills

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The federal government has signed purchase agreements with two pharmaceutical companies for their oral COVID-19 treatments.

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Canada’s Minister of Public Services and Procurement Philomena Tasi told reporters Friday that the government has signed agreements with Pfizer and Merck to buy 1.5 million courses of their antiviral pills, PF-07321332 and mollupiravir.

Both treatments are under Health Canada review, Tasi said.


“We also know that access to effective, easy-to-use treatments is critical to reducing the severity of COVID infection and will help save lives,” she said.

“As soon as these drugs are authorized for use, the government will work on bringing them to the provinces and territories as quickly as possible so that health care providers can help Canadians who need them most.”

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As part of its initial order, the government has struck an agreement with Pfizer for one million courses of its treatment, pending approval from Health Canada.

Tasi said the government’s deal with Merck is for 500,000 courses of its treatment, with the option to add another 500,000 pending approval.

On Wednesday, Pfizer began a rolling submission with Health Canada for its pill, which it says is designed to block a key enzyme needed for the COVID-19 virus to multiply.

Pfizer also said its treatment could reduce the chance of hospitalization or death by up to 89 percent for adults at risk of serious illness.

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In the meantime, Merck’s pill is still being reviewed by Health Canada as the company continues its rolling submission.

Last week, Merck shared data saying its drug was significantly less effective than previously thought, reducing hospitalizations and deaths among high-risk individuals by nearly 30 percent.

The treatment has received approval in the United Kingdom.

— With files from The Canadian Press and Reuters

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