ICER Slashes Suggested Price of Pfizer COVID Treatment by 80%

(Reuters) – An influential drug pricing research group has cut its suggested price range for Pfizer Inc’s COVID-19 antiviral treatment Paxlovid by more than 80%, partly to reflect the decreased disease burden as the Omicron variant of the coronavirus tends to cause less severe illness.

The Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER) said on Tuesday that its new suggested U.S. price based on the benefits and value to patients was in the range of $563 to $906 per treatment course. That compares with its previous assessment of $3,600 to $5,800 per course.

ICER is not a government agency and has no authority to set prices. But many large health insurers take their reports into account when they negotiate prices with drug manufacturers and determine patient access. Drugmakers also take into account ICER estimates when they set prices for new medicines.

Pfizer will need to negotiate prices with private payers like insurers for the two-drug oral treatment when inventory built up by the U.S. government runs out and many COVID care costs revert to the private insurance market.

“With new negotiations underway on pricing and payment between commercial insurers and the manufacturer, we believe it will be helpful for all stakeholders to have updated calculations of a price that aligns with the evidence on benefits to patients,” said ICER president Steven Pearson.

The United States has bought nearly 24 million Paxlovid courses from Pfizer at around $530 a course.

The drugmaker has not yet suggested what the price will be when it moves to a commercial market. Pfizer expects to roughly quadruple the price of its COVID-19 vaccine after the United States government’s current purchase program expires.

“Given the clinical and economic burden of COVID-19, we continue to believe Paxlovid offers strong value to patients, physicians, and payers,” Pfizer spokesperson Kit Longley said in an email, adding that the company was reviewing ICER’s latest assessment.

ICER said it considered evidence suggesting lower hospitalization rates in untreated patients, lower than previous relative reduction in hospitalization with Paxlovid and broader immunity to COVID-19 in the United States in setting the new suggested price range.

(Reporting by Sriparna Roy in Bengaluru and Michael Erman in New Jersey; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

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