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Canada secures orders of Merck, Pfizer COVID-19 antiviral pills

The federal government has signed purchase agreements with two pharmaceutical companies for their oral COVID-19 treatments.

Filomena Tassi, Canada’s minister of public services and procurement, told reporters on Friday the government has signed agreements with Pfizer and Merck to buy up to 1.5 million courses of their antiviral pills, PF-07321332 and Molnupiravir.

Both treatments are under Health Canada review, Tassi added.

“We also know that access to effective, easy-to-use treatments is critical to reducing the severity of COVID infections and will help save lives,” she said.

“As soon as these drugs are authorized for use, the government will work on getting them to provinces and territories as quickly as possible so that health-care providers can help Canadians who need them most.”

Read more: Pfizer begins approval process for COVID-19 antiviral pill in Canada

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As part of its initial order, the government has reached an agreement with Pfizer for one million units of its treatment, pending Health Canada approval.

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The government’s deal with Merck is for up to 500,000 pills, with an option to add 500,000 more pending approval, Tassi added.

On Wednesday, Pfizer started a rolling submission with Health Canada for its pill, which it said is designed to block a key enzyme needed for COVID-19 to multiply.

Pfizer also said its pill can cut the chance of hospitalization or death for adults at risk of severe disease by 89 per cent.

Read more: COVID-19 antiviral pill approved in U.K. still being reviewed by Health Canada

Meanwhile, Merck’s pill is still under review by Health Canada as the company continues its rolling submission.

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Last week, Merck shared data suggesting its drug was significantly less effective than previously thought, reducing hospitalizations and deaths in high-risk individuals by around 30 per cent.

The drug has received approval in the United Kingdom.

— with files from The Canadian Press and Reuters

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