Merck Will Share Formula for Its Covid Pill with Poor Countries

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Merck revealed last month that in a big clinical trial, the medicine cut the likelihood of hospitalizations and fatalities among high-risk Covid patients who took it promptly after infection in half. Affluent countries, like the United States, have hurried to arrange deals to purchase the treatment, securing huge chunks of the supply even before it has been approved by authorities and prompting fears that impoverished countries may be denied access to the medicine, as they have been with vaccinations.

Merck has granted a royalty-free license to a United Nations-backed organization for its innovative Covid-19 tablet, allowing the treatment to be made and marketed inexpensively in the world’s poorest countries, where coronavirus vaccinations are in critically short supply.

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The contract with the Medicines Patent Pool, a non-profit organization that works to make medical interventions and techniques more widely available, will allow corporations in 105 countries, primarily in Africa and Asia, to sublicense the methodology for the antiviral pill known as molnupiravir and begin manufacturing it.

Generic medication manufacturers in underdeveloped nations are likely to sell the drug for as cheap as $20 each treatment (a 5-day course), as opposed to the $712 per course that the US administration has promised to settle for its initial investment.

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“The Merck license is a very excellent and important protection for individuals living in nations that have more than 50% of the worldwide people,” said James Love, the executive director of Knowledge Ecology International, a charity research group.

Merck has previously taken the step of licensing eight major Indian pharmaceutical companies to create generic versions of molnupiravir pending approval. However, Merck’s vice president for global policy, Jenelle Krishnamoorthy, expressed concern that production in only one location would not be sufficient to assure timely access to the medicine across the poor globe.

Merck has agreed to assist with technology transfer to any generic licensee who seeks assistance in manufacturing the medicine. That offer, as well as the company’s fast actions to make its products accessible in the undeveloped world, compare with Pfizer and Moderna’s persistent unwillingness to perform transfer of knowledge to prospective mRNA vaccine makers in Africa, Asia, or Latin America. The organization is a rare medicinal company that is now generating mostly good media publicity.

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