Information about the pre-purchase agreement for Pfizer’s COVID-19 oral antiviral treatment

OIA response

Thank you for your request dated 6 December 2021 under the Official Information Act 1982 (OIA) for information relating to Pfizer’s oral antiviral treatment to treat COVID-19. You requested: 

Any information held by Pharmac in relation to the Prime Minister's announcement today that Pharmac has secured 60,000 doses of Pfizer's new antiviral medicine for COVID-19, which is as-yet unnamed. 

Specifically, I would like to know:

  • Which person or group initiated the process to pre-buy this medicine (it has not yet been evaluated by MedSafe).
  • Who authorised the speculative purchase to pre-buy this medicine (as it has not yet been evaluated by MedSafe, it may yet not receive approval to be used in New Zealand)
  • What is the cost per dose, of the initial 60,000 doses reported to be purchased.
  • What is the ongoing cost per dose for further supply (if negotiated).
  • Will funded access to this drug be available for uses not indicated in the schedule (if indeed it should be approved for any indication by MedSafe) 

Please see below for our response to your questions. 

Pharmac’s role is to secure funded pharmaceutical treatments for patients with an active COVID-19 infection or at high risk of infection. The Government has allocated Pharmac with specific funding for the purchase of COVID-19 treatments. Accordingly, Pharmac is proactively engaging with pharmaceutical suppliers to progress and follow-up discussions about COVID-19 treatments, including clinical data, supply and regulatory assessment progress. The nature of contracting for new COVID-19 treatments can require up-front commitments to purchase products and therefore Pharmac is assessing and considering the procurement of COVID-19 treatments prior to Medsafe approval, and in some cases, while clinical trials are still ongoing.  

Pharmac entered into an advance purchase agreement, to secure 60,000 treatment courses of the Pfizer antiviral (known as Paxlovid). The advance purchase agreement is subject to Medsafe approval which means that if Medsafe does not approve the application then there is no requirement for Pharmac to purchase the stock. The decision to enter into an advance purchase agreement for Pfizer’s antiviral was made by Pharmac’s Board. 

The access criteria for funding Paxlovid have not been determined. Pharmac expects to publicly consult on this soon. In December 2021 we sought advice from our COVID-19 Treatments Advisory Group about Pfizer’s antiviral to help inform what the funded access criteria might be. The records from this meeting are still being finalized but we are expecting to publish them on our website in the next couple of weeks. 

Medsafe has received an application for Paxlovid. Medsafe’s role(external link) is to evaluate applications for medicines for use in the treatment of COVID-19 to ensure they meet acceptable standards of safety, quality and efficacy. Updates on the status of this application can be viewed on Medsafe’s website: Approval status of COVID-19 treatment applications(external link)

The cost of the Pfizer antiviral is commercially sensitive and is withheld under section 9(2)(b)(ii) of the OIA. 

As required under the OIA, we also considered whether, in the circumstances, the withholding of this information was outweighed by other considerations which render it desirable, in the public interest, to make this information available. In this case we did not consider that the public interest outweighed the reasons for withholding the information. 

Please note you have the right, by way of complaint under section 28(3) of the OIA to an Ombudsman, to seek an investigation and review of our decision.

We trust that this information answers your queries. We are making our information more freely available, so we now publish selected OIA responses (excluding personal details) on our website. Please get in touch with us if you have any questions about this.