Merck Will Share Formula for Its Covid Pill with Poor Countries


Merck has given a United Nations-backed nonprofit a royalty-free license for its promising Covid-19 pill, allowing the drug to be produced and distributed cost effectively in the world’s poorest countries, where coronavirus vaccines are in critical short supply.

The agreement with the Medicines Patent Pool, an organization that works to make medical therapy and innovations more accessible around the world, will allow companies in 105 countries, mostly in Africa and Asia, to sublicense the antiviral pill’s formulation and begin manufacturing it.


Among a massive clinical trial, Merck revealed last month that the medicine reduced the likelihood of hospitalizations and fatalities in high-risk Covid patients who took it promptly after infection. Affluent countries, like the United States, have hurried to sign arrangements to purchase the treatment, securing substantial chunks of the supply even before it is approved by authorities, prompting fears that impoverished countries may be denied access to the medicine, as they have done with vaccinations.

Generic drug makers in underdeveloped nations are likely to sell the medicine for as cheap as $20 each treatment (a 5-day course), compared to the $712 per course that the US government has committed to pay for its inaugural puberty prevention program.

Treatment-access activists applauded the new agreement, which was revealed early Wednesday. They called it an extraordinary move by a big Western pharmaceutical business.

“The Merck license is a very excellent and relevant protection for individuals living in nations with more than half of the world’s population,” James Love, the director of Knowledge Environment Worldwide, a charity research group, stated.

“The license isn’t ideal,” he noted, “but it will be really useful if the medications live up to the hype and are healthy enough.” It will have an impact.”

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Merck already granted licenses to eight leading Indian pharmaceutical organizations to produce generic versions of molnupiravir, which are currently awaiting clearance.

However, according to Jenelle Krishnamoorthy, Merck’s vice president for global policy, the corporation was concerned that production in only one location would not be adequate to assure timely access to the medicine throughout the poor globe.

As a result, Merck had conversations with the patent pool, which has extensive experience working with a global network of medication manufacturers capable of meeting high-quality requirements, including those necessary for W.H.O. prequalification, she added.

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