Pills to People: Accelerating Equitable Global Access to Oral Therapeutics for COVID-19

Executive Summary

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken an enormous toll on health and lives globally, with almost 6 million deaths, over 400 million infections, and trillions of dollars of lost economic productivity. In the aftermath of the rapid global spread of the Omicron variant, many countries are eager to put the pandemic behind them and return to a more normal time. Yet, much work remains undone to end the acute phase of the pandemic globally. Many vaccines are highly effective, especially in offering protection against severe disease, hospitalizations, and death, but they are not equitably available, especially in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). While vaccines remain a critical aspect of global pandemic response, we must adapt to a “vaccination plus” strategy that reflects the expanding arsenal available to fight COVID-19.

Oral antivirals could potentially become a game-changer complementing vaccines. Access to effective oral treatments, especially for high-risk populations and those without access to vaccination, can help save lives and limit the impact of future surges. Pfizer’s nirmatrelvir/ritonavir (Paxlovid) shows the most near-term promise as a highly effective and safe treatment. But these therapies require access to accurate, rapid tests to be most valuable, and challenges remain on supply, demand, and financing for both tests and oral therapies.

To address these challenges, based on analysis of the evolving evidence, we provide in the table below recommendations to enable more equitable global access for oral therapies. This report provides additional context, analysis, and details for these recommendations.

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