WASHINGTON (AP) — The COVID-19 treatments millions of Americans have taken for free from the federal government will enter the private market next week with a hefty price tag.
Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer is setting the price for a five-day treatment of Paxlovid at $1,390, but Americans can still access the pills at no cost -- for now. The less commonly used COVID-19 treatment Lagevrio, manufactured by Merck, also will hit the market next week.
Millions of free, taxpayer-funded courses of the pills will remain at pharmacies, hospitals and doctor's offices across the country, U.S. Health and Human Services officials said Friday. People on private insurance may start to notice copays for the treatments once their pharmacy or doctor's office runs out of the COVID-19 treatments they received from the government.
The U.S. government initially inked a deal with Pfizer to pay more than $5 billion for 10 million courses of Paxlovid in 2021.
Under a new agreement, reached last month between Pfizer and the federal government, people on Medicaid, Medicare or those who are without medical insurance will not pay any out-of-pocket costs for the treatment through the end of next year. Pfizer will also offer copay assistance for the treatment through 2028. The Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense and Indian Health Service will still be able to access Paxlovid the government has on hand. The government will also get 1 million treatment courses to keep in its stockpile.
Suppliers to pharmacies, doctor’s offices and hospitals can begin ordering the treatments from the drug companies starting next week.
“Pfizer is committed to a smooth commercial transition and is working collaboratively with the U.S. government and health care stakeholders to ensure broad and equitable access to this important medicine for all eligible patients,” the company said in an emailed statement to The Associated Press.
Paxlovid has been used to treat COVID-19 since 2021, but the Food and Drug Administration granted full approval earlier this year for it to be used on adults with coronavirus who face high risks of hospitalization or death. That group typically includes older adults and those with medical conditions like diabetes, asthma and obesity.
Full-year revenue for Paxlovid and Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine, Comirnaty, is expected to be approximately $12.5 billion.
Merck has not confirmed a list price yet for its Lagevrio treatment but said in a statement to AP that it will also offer the treatment free to patients “who, without assistance, could not otherwise afford the product.”
Associated Press reporter Tom Murphy in Indianapolis contributed to this report.