How much does one buy for 10 million people? Well, Pfizer is selling 30-milligram vials of a specialized anti-virulent drug called cevacamin, which reduces HIV-type virus levels to an undetectable level in a two-week period. Like similar anti-virals, cevacamin needs to be taken daily. But because it also curbs weight gain, it offers no benefits in people who have already developed resistance to other types of anti-viral drugs.
So how much does one buy? As of August, Pfizer had more than $7 billion worth of cevacamin on hand in 30-milligram vials. And it sells just 15.5 million vials a year, in all. So Pfizer has come up with a plan to encourage people to use a different type of anti-viral pill: a 2-week-long formulation called Sofosbuvir. Right now, this new pill will be available only in 45 countries, the U.S. included.
So what’s driving this push? According to Paul Hausfelder, Pfizer’s global head of clinical operations, “We’re seeing really dramatic, profound reductions in viral loads with this other formulation.”