Pfizer CEO says Covid shots will stay 'free', despite indirect costs

Pfizer CEO says Covid shots will stay ‘free’, despite indirect costs

BOSTON — As Pfizer prepares to raise the price of its Covid-19 vaccines, the company’s CEO, Albert Bourla, told a conference this week that shots will continue to be “free for all Americans.” because insurers are required to pay the additional cost.

“Americans won’t see any difference,” Bourla said, speaking at the STAT summit on Wednesday. Without co-payment, the Pfizer vaccine, called Comirnaty, will be “free for them, no matter what insurance they have.”

The US government has so far paid Pfizer $30 per injection, making the vaccines available to all Americans free of charge. But with the end of government purchases, Pfizer has decided to implement a private market price of between $110 and $130 per dose, starting in 2023.

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There may not be a direct financial impact on U.S. policyholders vaccinated against Pfizer Covid, but the higher cost to insurers will be passed on in the form of higher premiums. David Mitchell, co-founder of the patient advocacy group for affordable medicines, called Bourla’s comments “pharmaceutical doublespeak”. in a tweet.

Asked about Pfizer’s efforts to address global health inequities by making the Covid-19 vaccine available worldwide, Bourla lamented that one billion doses – sold at cost and shipped to low-income countries – remained unused and had to be destroyed.

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“Very few of those 1 billion doses have been used,” Bourla said. “Another dimension of health inequalities is infrastructure. The African countries that were vocal at the beginning to want vaccines, when they were offered the vaccines completely free, at their doorstep, they could not absorb them.

Asked if Pfizer had a responsibility to ensure the Covid vaccine gets into the arms of people living in low-income countries, Bourla said the issue was “everyone’s concern”, but he also pointed more specifically to the World Health Organization. “They had to prepare the ground in those countries, so that when the vaccines were available, they could be used,” he said.

Pfizer also provided Paxlovid, its antiviral treatment for Covid, at cost to low-income countries, Bourla said. But the company took other steps, like making Covid tests available and providing other on-the-ground services, to ensure the drug was used. This “infrastructure” effort is now expanded to encompass all Pfizer medicines, covering 1.2 billion people in low-income countries, Bourla said.

While Pfizer will continue to generate significant revenue from its Covid vaccine and Paxlovid, Bourla said future growth will come primarily from its research pipeline, which expects 19 launches over the next 18 months, including 10 entirely new products, to both drugs and vaccines.

“This is a very exciting pipeline that will make big differences in people’s lives,” Bourla said.

Last May, Pfizer bought migraine drug maker Biohaven Pharma for $11 billion, followed in August by a $5 billion deal for Global Blood Therapeutics and its sickle cell treatments. Bourla said Pfizer was still in the buying mood, but at the right price.

When asked if biotech valuations are more attractive now given the number of stocks punished, he replied: “Generally they are cheaper, but the ones you want to buy, they are not”, Bourla joked.

Over the past three years, Pfizer has allocated the majority of its capital to research, both internally and externally through acquisitions, Bourla added.

“We will continue to do so because in our hands, we believe the products become more valuable as we add our capabilities.”

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