A UN-backed organization announced on Thursday that it has signed agreements with more than two dozen generic drug manufacturers to produce versions of Merck’s COVID-19 pills to supply 105 developing countries.
Medicines Patent Pool said that the deals would allow pharmaceutical companies to manufacture both the raw materials for cloud nupiravir and the finished product itself.
Molnupiravir, developed by Merck and Ridgeback Therapeutics, has been reported to halve the number of hospital stays among patients with early signs of covid-19. The UK, EU and US have approved its use in recent months.
“This is a crucial step towards ensuring global access to an urgently needed treatment for covid-19,” said Charles Gore, CEO of Medicines Patent Pool.
The group said that 27 generic drug manufacturers in 11 countries, including Bangladesh, China, Egypt, Vietnam, Kenya and South Africa, would soon start manufacturing Merck’s pills.
An antiviral pill that people can take at home to reduce their symptoms and speed up recovery can be groundbreaking, alleviate the crushing burden of hospitalization and help curb outbreaks in poorer countries with weak health care systems.
It would also strengthen a two-pronged approach to pandemics: treatment in the form of medication and prevention, mainly through vaccinations.
Merck announced in October that they would allow other drugs to make molnupiravir. Neither Merck, Ridgeback Biotherapeutics nor Emory University, which invented the drug, will receive royalties, while COVID-19 remains a global health emergency from sales of cloud generators from generics companies.
To date, no manufacturers of coronavirus vaccine have agreed to a similar agreement.