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WHO ‘strongly recommends’ Pfizer’s Covid pill

Pfizer's oral treatment prevents hospitalization more than available alternatives

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WHO ‘strongly recommends’ Pfizer’s Covid pill
GNN Media: Representational Photo

Geneva: The World Health Organization said Friday it “strongly recommended” Pfizer’s Covid-19 antiviral pill Paxlovid for patients with milder forms of the disease who were still at a high risk of hospitalization.

However the UN agency warned it was “extremely concerned” that the inequality in access seen with Covid vaccines would again leave low- and middle-income countries “pushed to the end of the queue”.

US pharma giant Pfizer’s combination of nirmatrelvir and ritonavir was the “superior choice” of treatment for unvaccinated, elderly, or immunocompromised people with Covid, the WHO’s experts said in the BMJ medical journal.

For the same patients, the WHO also made a “conditional (weak) recommendation” of the antiviral drug remdesivir made by US biotech firm Gilead — which it had previously recommended against.

The WHO recommended Paxlovid over remdesivir, as well as over Merck’s molnupiravir pill and monoclonal antibodies.

Pfizer’s oral treatment prevents hospitalization more than the “available alternatives, has fewer concerns with respect to harms than molnupiravir, and is easier to administer than intravenous remdesivir and antibodies,” the WHO’s experts said.

The new recommendation was based on the findings of two trials involving almost 3,100 patients which showed that Paxlovid reduced the risk of hospital admission by 85 percent.

The trials also “suggested no important difference in mortality” and “little or no risk of adverse effects leading to drug discontinuation”.

The recommendation applies to people over the age of 18, but not to pregnant or breastfeeding women.

It also does not apply to patients with a low risk of complications from the disease, because the benefit would be minimal.

The WHO’s experts also declined to give an opinion for patients with severe forms of the disease, due to a lack of data.

Limitations and inequities

The WHO stressed the limitations of such antiviral treatments.

“The medicine can only be administered while the disease is at its early stages,” they said.

This means the patients must quickly test positive and be prescribed the pill by a doctor — all of which can pose obstacles for low- and middle-income countries, the WHO said.

Yet Covid pills have been seen as a potentially huge step in ending the pandemic as they can be taken at home, rather than in a hospital.

Patients must start taking their Paxlovid pills within five days of the onset of symptoms — the course then lasts five days.

Remdesivir can be taken within seven days of symptoms setting in, but it is administered intravenously over three days.

Questions about cost

The WHO called on Pfizer to “make its pricing and deals more transparent” for Paxlovid.

Lisa Hedman, the WHO’s senior advisor on access to medicines, said that radio station NPR reported a full course of Paxlovid costs $530 in the United States. Another source unconfirmed by WHO gave the price of $250 in an upper-middle-income country.

Remdesivir meanwhile costs $520, Hedman said, but generic versions made by companies in India sell for $53-$64.

There is also a question mark over whether the virus could build resistance to these treatments.

But earlier this month Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla predicted a bright future for treatments like Paxlovid as people grow tired of getting further booster vaccinations.

Coming under fire for prioritizing wealthy countries with its vaccine, Pfizer has agreed to allow some generic drugmakers around the world to make cheaper versions of Paxlovid under a UN-backed scheme.

But on Friday the WHO “strongly recommended” that Pfizer let more generic manufacturers produce the drug and “make it available faster at affordable prices”.

SOURCE: AFP

Siddra Sumreen

Syeda Siddra has been working as a web journalist for over the past seven years. She earned her M.Phil degree in Mass Communication from the Lahore Leads University. Ms. Siddra has previously worked with other renowned channels and is now associated with GNN as Senior Content Writer.

Pakistan

Salman Sufi appointed head of PM’s Strategic Reforms

Salman Sufi, a Mother Teresa Award winner and an expert in introducing unique social welfare schemes, will render his services voluntarily. 

Published by Mehak Javed

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Salman Sufi appointed head of PM’s Strategic Reforms

Islamabad: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday appointed public policy expert Salman Sufi as the head of the Prime Minister’s Strategic Reforms.

Salman Sufi, a Mother Teresa Award winner and an expert in introducing unique social welfare schemes, will render his services voluntarily. 

Mr. Salman has introduced a number of people-friendly schemes, including the Punjab Women Protection Act, Violence Against Women Centre, Women on Wheels and Shehr-e-Khamoshan. 

He has also served as Director General Strategic Reform Unit during Shehbaz Sharif’s Punjab chief ministership.

Salman Sufi was named one of the top five women’s rights activists in the world, including by the government of incumbent US President Joe Biden, and was also awarded the Vital Voices Award.

Additionally, the government has directed all ministries to make every effort to effectively implement the Prime Minister’s reform agenda. 

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Pakistan

Govt hikes per litre price of petrol and diesel by Rs30

New prices will go into effect at midnight

Published by Faisal Ali Ghumman

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Govt hikes per litre price of petrol and diesel by Rs30

Islamabad: The federal government Thursday announced hike in per litre price of petrol and diesel by Rs30 each.

The announcement came after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) emphasised abolishing the subsidies on the commodities.

Federal Finance Minister Miftah Ismail announed raise during a press conference.

In a tweet, the minister said: "Government has decided to increase the prices of Petrol, High Speed Diesel, Kerosene Oil and Light Diesel Oil by Rs 30 per litre from Friday May 27, 2022. New prices will go into effect at midnight. The new price of petrol will be Rs 179.86 & diesel will be Rs 174.15 per litre."

Petrol will now be available at Rs179.86, diesel Rs174.15, Kerosene oil Rs155.56 and Light diesel Rs148.31.

Ismail said the government had no other option but to raise the prices, adding that "we are still bearing a loss of Rs56 per litre on diesel" even under the new pricing.

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Pakistan

‘Pak-Turk-Kazakh Youth Forum on Biotech’ to be held in Sept

The event will include informative talks from young as well as the experienced scientists of the three countries.

Published by Mehak Javed

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‘Pak-Turk-Kazakh Youth Forum on Biotech’ to be held in Sept

Islamabad: Three-day `Pakistan-Turkey-Kazakhstan Youth Forum on Biotechnology’ will be arranged in September with emphasis on increasing the share of Muslim countries in biotechnology global market.

The forum, to be held from September 13-15, is being sponsored by COMSTECH-the OIC Standing Committee for Scientific and Technological Cooperation, Islamic Organization for Food Security (IOFS) and Islamic Cooperation Youth Forum (ICYF), an official said. 

The global biotechnology market is anticipated to reach a market value of US$ 775 billion by 2024 with an annual growth rate of 7.7%. Increased spending in biotechnology research and development, favourable initiatives by governments, global food security and the increasing need for emerging technologies are some of the factors influencing this growth.

Unfortunately, the share of Muslim countries in this global market of biotechnology is very little which needs to be increased.

This proposed tripartite youth forum (Pakistan-Turkey-Kazakhstan) will help promote excellence and competence in the field of agricultural biotechnology among Muslim countries.

The theme of the forum “Agriculture Biotechnology” aims at providing the best knowledge and resources to young participants to advance their research goals, the official informed.

The youth forum will stimulate the desire to collaborate and change the world of agricultural biotechnology and innovation by promoting state-of-the-art practices in biotechnology research and promoting evidence-based practices.

The event will include informative talks from young as well as the experienced scientists of the three countries.

The event will also include keynote lectures, plenary sessions, oral and poster presentations, discussions and other educational and social events that stimulate several networking opportunities among the young participants of Pakistan, Turkey and Kazakhstan.

The official highlighted that the forum aims to facilitate interactions within the young research community to discuss the latest developments in this rapidly advancing field and find ways to respond to the increasing demands of professionals and communities across the world.

The academics, students and researchers from the OIC countries may apply, while only participants from Kazakhstan, Pakistan and Turkey are eligible for the limited funding available for travel and local hospitality.

This youth forum is planned to be a hybrid event (Physical and virtual), while candidates are required to give their preference in the form.

The participants from all the member OIC states, who can bear their travel expenses may register for the forum and get ticket funding from their parent organizations.

The topics to be covered during the forum include Genome editing and new breeding technologies, large scale genomics and genomic selection in crop and livestock breeding, speed breeding for rapid genetic gain, variants of Cas proteins and their potential applications and high throughput phenomics.

SOURCE: APP

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