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U.S. looking to broaden access to COVID-19 antiviral pills - WSJ

Pfizer's COVID-19 pill, Paxlovid, is manufactured and packaged

(Reuters) - The Biden administration is looking at ways to broaden access to potential COVID-19 antiviral pills when supply increases in the coming months, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, citing a person familiar with the plans.

The administration is reviewing whether Paxlovid, the antiviral from Pfizer Inc, can be available on the commercial market in retail pharmacies if it gets regulatory clearance, the Journal reported.

Molnupiravir, an oral pill from Merck & Co Inc and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics LP that is also under regulatory review, may be included in the government's plan to make it commercially available, the journal reported, citing the person.

The United States has agreed to buy 10 million courses of Pfizer's drug and has so far secured 3.1 million courses of Merck's pill. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently reviewing applications for emergency use authorization of the drugs.

Pfizer pointed to its supply deal with the U.S. government announced on Thursday, in response to a Reuters request for comment. Merck and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) did not immediately respond.

Both drugs are viewed as promising weapons in the fight against the public health crisis, with countries scrambling to secure supply deals after promising data reported by the companies.

The U.S. government is pushing the drugmakers to boost production, the report said, adding that commercial sales could occur when supply of the pills increases.

(Reporting by Amruta Khandekar; Editing by Anil D'Silva)