London, Nov 16: Drugmaker Pfizer Inc. has signed a deal with a U.N. backed group to allow other manufacturers to make its experimental VOID-19 pill, a move that could make the treatment available to more than half of the world's population.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Pfizer said it would grant a license for the antiviral pill to the Geneva-based Medicines Patent Pool, which would let generic drug companies produce the pill for use in 95 countries, making up about 53% of the world's population.

The deal excludes some large countries that have suffered devastating coronavirus outbreaks.

For example, while a Brazilian drug company could get a license to make the pill for export to other countries, the medicine could not be made generically for use in Brazil.

Still, health officials said the fact that the deal was struck even before Pfizer's pill has been authorized anywhere, could help to end the pandemic quicker.

It's quite significant that we will be able to provide access to a drug that appears to be effective and has just been developed, to more than 4 billion people, Esteban Burrone, head of policy at the Medicines Patent Pool, said.

He estimated that other drugmakers would be able to start producing the pill within months, but acknowledged the agreement wouldn't please everyone.

We try to strike a very delicate balance between the interests of the (company), the sustainability required by generic producers and most importantly, the public health needs in lower and middle-income countries, Burrone said.

Under the terms of the agreement, Pfizer will not receive royalties on sales in low-income countries and will waive royalties on sales in all countries covered by the agreement while COVID-19 remains a public health emergency.

Earlier this month, Pfizer said its pill cut the risk of hospitalisation and death by nearly 90% in people with mild to moderate coronavirus infections. Independent experts recommended halting the company's study based on its promising results.

Pfizer said it would ask the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other regulators to authorise the pill as soon as possible since the pandemic erupted last year, researchers worldwide have raced to develop a pill to treat COVID-19 that can be taken at home easily to ease symptoms, speed recovery and keep people out of the hospital.

At the moment, most COVID-19 treatments must be delivered intravenously or by injection.

Britain authorised the Merck's COVID-19 pill earlier this month, and it is pending approval elsewhere. In a similar deal with the Medicines Patent Pool announced in October, Merck agreed to let other drugmakers make its COVID-19 pill, molnupiravir, available in 105 poorer countries.

Doctors Without Borders said it was disheartened that the Pfizer deal does not make the drug available to the entire world, noting that the agreement announced Tuesday also excludes countries including China, Argentina and Thailand.

The world knows by now that access to COVID-19 medical tools needs to be guaranteed for everyone, everywhere, if we really want to control this pandemic, said Yuanqiong Hu, a senior legal policy adviser at Doctors Without Borders.

The decisions by Pfizer and Merck to share their COVID-19 drug patents stands in stark contrast to the refusal of Pfizer and other vaccine-makers to release their vaccine recipes for wider production.

A hub set up by the World Health Organisation in South Africa intended to share messenger RNA vaccine recipes and technologies has not enticed a single pharmaceutical to join.

Fewer than 1% of Pfizer's COVID-19 shots have gone to poorer countries.

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New Delhi, Nov 30: We can't be waiting any longer now and the sentencing aspect in the contempt matter against fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya, who is an accused in bank loan default case of over Rs 9,000 crore involving his defunct Kingfisher Airlines, would be dealt with finally on January 18 next year, the Supreme Court said on Tuesday.

Noting that Mallya, who is presently in the United Kingdom (UK), was held guilty of contempt in 2017 and the matter was thereafter to be listed to hear him on the proposed punishment to be awarded to him, a bench headed by Justice U U Lalit said the apex court has waited sufficiently long .

The top court had last year dismissed Mallya's plea seeking review of its 2017 verdict which held him guilty of contempt for transferring USD 40 million to his children in violations of the court orders.

The apex court noted that as per an office memorandum, under the signature of Deputy Secretary (extradition) of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), placed before it, the proceedings for extradition have attained finality and Mallya has exhausted all avenues for appeal in the UK.

The bench, also comprising Justices S R Bhat and Bela M Trivedi, noted that the November 30 office memorandum also refers to proceedings pending in the UK which are stated to be confidential and as such no details are getting disclosed .

What we wish to do is, we will list this matter for disposal in second week of January because we have waited sufficiently long enough, we can't be waiting any longer now. It has to see the light of the day at some stage or the other and the process must also get over, the bench observed during the hearing.

It said it will list the matter in January for disposal and at that juncture, if Mallya want to take part personally, he will be here through the extradition proceedings and in case, he is not, the bench will hear the submissions of his lawyer.

In its order, the top court said Mallya is at liberty to advance the submissions and if for any reason, he is not present before the court, lawyer on his behalf can advance submissions.

The bench noted that Mallya was held guilty of contempt in 2017 but because of certain proceedings, which at the relevant time were going on in courts of law in the UK, his presence could not be secured despite directions issued by the apex court.

The top court requested senior advocate Jaideep Gupta to assist it as an amicus curiae in the matter.

The matter shall be dealt with finally on January 18, 2022, it said.

Noting that the office memorandum placed before it refers to certain proceedings which are stated to be confidential, the bench said it appeared that these are the same proceedings which were referred to in the November last year order.

When the matter was taken up for hearing at 2 PM, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, told the bench that he has just received a communication from the MEA.

The communication was placed before the bench which perused it.

When the matter was taken up for hearing during the pre-lunch session, the apex court said it proposes to go ahead with the contempt matter and list it for hearing on sentencing.

What we propose to pass an order that we will list the matter for hearing on sentence because the advocate (for Mallya) continues to appear. So, therefore, there is no embargo on hearing the advocate on sentence. We will go ahead with that, the bench said.

Advocate Rajat Nair, appearing for the Centre, then told the bench that he is being led by the Solicitor General, who is arguing before another court.

He (Mehta) has the instruction. He has already spoken to the concerned authorities in the MEA. If this matter can be taken up tomorrow or day after, he will make submissions, advocate Nair told the apex court.

The bench then said that it would take up the matter for hearing at 2 PM during the day.

On January 18 this year, the Centre told the top court that the government is making all efforts to extradite Mallya from the UK but the process is being delayed due to some legal issues involved in the matter.

The MEA has raised the issue of extradition with the UK government and the Centre was making all serious efforts to extradite Mallya, Mehta had said.

Mallya is in the UK since March 2016. He is on bail on an extradition warrant executed three years ago by Scotland Yard on April 18, 2017.

On November 2, last year, the top court had asked the Centre to file status report in six weeks on the confidential legal proceedings pending in the UK on extradition of Mallya to India.

The Centre had on October 5 last year told the apex court that Mallya cannot be extradited to India until a separate secret legal process in the UK, which is judicial and confidential in nature is resolved.

The Centre had in October last year said it is not aware of the secret on-going proceedings against Mallya in the UK as the Government of India is not party to the process.

The Centre had earlier given details of the extradition proceedings against Mallya starting from February 9, 2017 till dismissal of his appeal against extradition in UK on May 14 last year and said that he has thus exhausted all avenues of appeal in the UK.

The Centre had said that following the refusal of leave to appeal, Mallya's surrender to India should, in principle, have been completed within 28 days but the UK home office intimated that there is a further legal issue which needs to be resolved before Vijay Mallya's extradition may take place.