Pfizer CEO says he ‘wouldn’t worry much’ about monkeypox; cuts drug prices for low-income countries

Albert Bourla, Pfizer CEO, at the WEF in Davos, Switzerland on May 25th, 2022.

Adam Galici | CNBC

Pfizer‘s CEO said Wednesday that he “wouldn’t worry much” about a recent monkeypox outbreak that has seen cases surge in non-endemic countries.

Albert Bourla told CNBC that current data on the disease suggests it doesn’t transmit as easily as other viruses, such as Covid-19, and that it is unlikely to lead to a pandemic.

“I don’t have all the information ahead of me. With everything I know, I wouldn’t worry much,” he said at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

“That doesn’t mean that we should relax,” however, he continued. “I think we should monitor where the situation goes.”

Monkeypox is a rare viral infection that is endemic to Central and West Africa. It spreads through close contact with people, animals or material infected with the virus, with symptoms including rashes, fever, headaches, muscle ache, swelling and backpain.

While most cases are mild, typically resolving within two to four weeks, health experts have been baffled by the recent spike in countries with no history of the disease and patients with no travel links to endemic countries.

As of Wednesday, at least 237 confirmed and suspected cases of monkeypox had been reported in countries outside of Africa, including in the United Arab Emirates — the first gulf state to report a case.

Bourla noted that the availability of existing treatments present reason for optimism. Smallpox vaccinations have proven 85% effective against monkeypox, and already France and Denmark are considering targeted vaccination campaigns for those most at risk of transmitting the disease.

World’s poorest countries to receive medicines at cost

Through the program, Pfizer said it aims to improve the ease and speed of access to vital medicines for poorer nations.

Bourla said it realizes the company’s goal, set out when he took over in 2019, to “reduce by 50% the number of people on the planet that cannot afford their medicine” by 2023.

“Today we are going to achieve that,” he said, adding that shareholders “should think that we are doing the right thing.”

Addressing Covid-19 shortfalls

According to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, it can typically take four to seven years longer for new treatments to become available in low-income countries than in advanced economies — if they become available at all.

Twenty-seven low-income and 18 lower-income countries spanning most of Africa and much of Southeast Asia will be included in the scheme, dubbed “an accord for a healthier world.”

27 low-income and 18 lower-income countries spanning most of Africa and much of Southeast Asia will be included in Pfizer’s program, dubbed “an accord for a healthier world.”

Xinhua News Agency | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images

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