Covid-19 treatment is set to hit the market with a high price tag

WASHINGTON (AP) — Covid-19 drugs that millions of Americans received for free from the federal government will hit the private market next week at a hefty price tag.

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer sets a price per five-day treatment with Paxlovid for $1,390, but Americans still have free access to the pills – for now. The less commonly used Covid-19 drug Lagevrio, made by Merck, will also hit the market next week.

Millions of free, taxpayer-funded pill courses will remain in pharmacies, hospitals and doctor’s offices across the country, officials with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said Friday. People with private insurance may start seeing a surcharge for treatment when their pharmacy or doctor’s office runs out of Covid-19 medications they received from the government.

Initially, the US government signed a contract with Pfizer pay over $5 billion for 10 million Paxlovid courses in 2021.

Under a new agreement reached last month between Pfizer and the federal government, people on Medicaid, Medicare or without medical insurance will pay no out-of-pocket medical costs until the end of next year. Pfizer will also offer treatment assistance through 2028. The Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense and the Indian Health Service will continue to be able to access the government’s Paxlovid drug. The the government will also receive 1 million treatment courses that it will have in its stockpile.

Suppliers to pharmacies, doctor’s offices and hospitals can start ordering drugs from pharmaceutical companies from next week.

Pfizer is committed to a smooth transition to the commercial market and is working with the U.S. government and healthcare stakeholders to ensure broad and equitable access to this important medicine for all eligible patients, the company said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press.

Paxlovid has been used to treat Covid-19 since 2021, but earlier this year the Food and Drug Administration gave full approval for its use in adults with coronavirus who are at high risk of hospitalization or death. This group usually includes older people and people suffering from diseases such as diabetes, asthma and obesity.

All year revenues from Paxlovid and Pfizers Covid-19 vaccine, Comirnaty, is expected to be approximately USD 12.5 billion.

Merck has not yet confirmed list prices for Lagevrio, but in a statement to the AP it said it would also offer free treatment to patients who couldn’t afford the product without help.

Associated Press reporter Tom Murphy in Indianapolis contributed to this report.

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