• Monday, Nov 29, 2021
  • Last Update : 02:19 am

Merck strikes deal for global access to Covid drug

  • Published at 09:02 pm October 27th, 2021
An experimental COVID-19 treatment pill called molnupiravir being developed by Merck & Co Inc
File Photo: An experimental Covid-19 treatment pill called molnupiravir being developed by Merck & Co Inc and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics LP, is seen in this undated handout photo released by Merck & Co Inc and obtained by Reuters May 17, 2021. Reuters

The global Medicines Patent Pool had signed a voluntary licencing agreement with Merck to facilitate affordable worldwide access for molnupiravir

US drugmaker Merck & Co on Wednesday announced a deal that could see generic versions of its anti-Covid-19 medication for people infected with the disease widely distributed in poorer countries.

The global Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) said it had signed a voluntary licencing agreement with Merck to facilitate affordable worldwide access for its investigational oral Covid-19 antiviral medicine molnupiravir.

Subject to regulatory approval, the deal will help create broad access for use of molnupiravir in 105 low- and middle-income countries.

The US and European Union medicines regulators are already reviewing the drug. Antivirals like molnupiravir work by decreasing the ability of a virus to replicate, thereby slowing down the disease.

Given to patients within days of a positive test, the treatment halves the risk of hospitalization, according to a clinical trial conducted by Merck, also called MSD outside the United States.

The Geneva-based MPP is a United Nations-backed international organization that works to facilitate the development of medicines for low- and middle-income nations.

Under the deal, Merck grants a licence to the MPP, under which the organization can then sub-licence to makers of generic drugs, 

The deal means the drug's developers will not receive sales royalties while Covid-19 remains classified as a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) by the World Health Organization.

A PHEIC is the highest alarm the WHO can sound and its emergency committee last week reconfirmed the pandemic's top-alert status.

"The interim results for molnupiravir are compelling and we see this oral treatment candidate as a potentially important tool to help address the current health crisis," said MPP executive director Charles Gore.

Merck is jointly developing molnupiravir with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics.

The Miami-based company's chief executive Wendy Holman said: "We are pleased to collaborate with MPP to ensure that quality-assured generic versions of molnupiravir can be developed and distributed quickly following regulatory authorization.

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