(CNN) — The price of the lifesaving Covid-19 antiviral medication Paxlovid will more than double as the United States transitions out of the emergency phase of the pandemic, drugmaker Pfizer said Wednesday.
The list price, before insurance, will be $1,390 for a five-day course, Pfizer said in a statement. That’s 2.6 times higher than the $530-per-course price paid by the US government, which provided Paxlovid free to patients during the pandemic. The Wall Street Journal first reported the new price.
Pfizer noted that the list price “does not necessarily reflect the price a patient will pay” and said it’s working to secure health insurance arrangements that would come with low out-of-pocket costs to patients. The company also said it would offer assistance with copays for people who qualify, which could bring their out-of-pocket costs to nothing.
People with Medicare or Medicaid or who are uninsured will be able to get Paxlovid for free through 2024 via a patient assistance program, the US Department of Health and Human Services said last week. Pfizer said that program will extend through 2028 for patients who are uninsured or “underinsured.”
The change in list price comes as the US transitions from a system in which the government purchased the medication and provided it free to everyone to a more traditional commercial marketplace. Paxlovid will continue to be free for patients through that system until the end of the year.
Covid-19 vaccines also increased in price as they went through a similar transition to a commercial market, rising about fourfold to between $115 to $130 per dose. One financial analyst had estimated a potentially similar increase, of three to five times, for Paxlovid, which would have brought its list price as high as $2,500.
Dr. Eric Topol, a professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research, described a potential increase as “price gouging” when CNN reported Pfizer’s plans to raise the cost this week.
“Hard to call it ‘good news’ ” that the increase was instead only 2.6 times, Topol wrote in an email to CNN on Wednesday. He and other physicians had warned that an increase in Paxlovid’s price would create hurdles for people to get the drug.
Pfizer said Paxlovid “has been a breakthrough in the fight against Covid-19, helping to treat millions of high-risk patients across the US and millions more around the world.”
The new price, the company said, “is based on the value it provides to patients, providers, and health care systems due to its important role in helping reduce Covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths.”
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