Pfizer, the pharmaceutical company behind the widely used Covid-19 vaccine, has announced that it will price its antiviral drug Paxlovid at $1,390 for a five-day course when it transitions to the commercial market later this year. This list price, as confirmed by a company spokesperson, is more than double the $529 that the federal government paid for the drug.
The government has been distributing Paxlovid to the public for free since December 2021, when the treatment was authorized by the FDA. However, starting in 2024, Pfizer will begin selling the drug directly to health insurers, as demand for Covid vaccines and treatments declines nationwide.
This pricing decision by Pfizer has raised concerns among doctors, health experts, and patient advocates, who worry that the higher price could limit access to the life-saving treatment. Paxlovid has been shown to reduce the risk of severe disease and death from Covid, particularly among vulnerable patients with conditions like diabetes, heart conditions, or weakened immune systems.
On the positive side, health insurance plans are expected to pay significantly less than the list price for Paxlovid, meaning that patients will likely have minimal or no out-of-pocket costs. Pfizer has also stated that it is working with payers to lower copays for patients. Additionally, the company plans to subsidize copays for commercially insured individuals at least through 2028.
Pfizer has emphasized its commitment to ensuring broad and equitable access to its medicines. The company is actively working with payers to achieve favorable formulary placement for Paxlovid, which will result in lower out-of-pocket costs for patients, according to a spokesperson.
In a related development, Pfizer announced that it expects lower revenue from Paxlovid than initially anticipated, which has contributed to an adjustment in its overall sales outlook for 2023. The company now projects sales of $58 billion to $61 billion, down from the previous guidance of $67 billion to $70 billion. Pfizer attributes this downward revision solely to its Covid products, including Paxlovid.
While the pricing of Paxlovid has sparked concerns, it is important to consider that health insurance plans are likely to mitigate the financial burden for patients. Pfizer’s commitment to subsidizing copays and working with payers to lower costs reflects its efforts to ensure affordability and accessibility. As the company continues to navigate the evolving landscape of Covid treatments and vaccines, balancing financial considerations with the need for equitable access will remain crucial.