Thursday, December 7

Low-cost version of Merck COVID pill to be made for less-developed nations

Almost 30 generic drugmakers have struck a deal with a UN-backed agency to make cheaper or low-cost versions of the Covid-19 recently approved pill, Molnupiravir, produced by Merck & Co’s (MRK.N).

The low-cost versions of the pill will be produced for nations who cannot afford the Merck pill, thereby widening access to a drug seen as a weapon in fighting the pandemic.

In December, the antiviral drug received emergency approval in the United States and according to clinical trial results has shown a potential to reduce hospitalizations and deaths of high-risk patients by around 30%.

The agreement has been reached by the U.N.-backed Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) and Merck & Co’s.

This agreement grants the 27 generic drugmakers from India, China and other countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, the go-ahead to produce ingredients and the finished drug.

According to the MPP, the details of the deal stipulates that the pill would be distributed to 105 less-developed nations.

It is also worthy of note that the developers of molnupiravir, that is, Merck & Co’s, a U.S. firm Ridgeback Biotherapeutics and Emory University, will not receive royalties for the sale of the low-cost versions produced by generic drugmakers so long as COVID-19 remains classified as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The Executive Director of the MPP, Charles Gore, said, “This is a critical step towards ensuring global access to an urgently needed COVID-19 treatment and we are confident that, as manufacturers are working closely with regulatory authorities, the anticipated treatments will be rapidly available.”

Other pharmaceuticals involved in the production of the low-cost pill are; Bangladesh’s Beximco Pharmaceuticals, India’s Natco Pharma (NATP.NS), South Africa’s Aspen Pharmacare Holdings (APNJ.J) and China’s Fosun Pharma are among generics firms that will produce the finished product.