Pharmaceutical company Merck has agreed to allow other drug manufacturers to manufacture its COVID-19 pills to help millions of people in poor countries gain access to a potentially life-saving drug, the UN-backed public health organization said Wednesday. …
The Medicines Patent Pool said in a statement that it has signed a voluntary licensing agreement for molnupiravir with Merck and its partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics.
The agreement will allow the Medicines Patent Pool to issue additional licenses to qualified companies that are allowed to manufacture the medicine. No drug manufacturer will receive royalties under the agreement as long as the World Health Organization considers COVID-19 to be a global emergency. Molnupiravir is the first pill that has been shown to treat disease.
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Charles Gore, executive director of the Medicines Patent Pool, said the first results for molnupiravir were “compelling” and that he hopes this first voluntary licensing agreement for COVID-19 treatment will lead to others.
Despite repeated requests from governments and health officials, no vaccine manufacturer agreed to such a deal. A center set up by WHO in South Africa for the exchange of prescription and technology for RNA-mediated vaccines has not prompted any pharmaceutical product to join.
Merck has requested a license for its pill from both the US Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency, and a decision could be made within a few weeks.
Merck reported this month that molnupiravir has halved hospital admissions and deaths among patients with early symptoms of COVID-19. The results were so compelling that independent medical experts who monitored the study recommended that it be terminated early.
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Antiviral pills that people can take at home to reduce symptoms and speed up recovery could be revolutionary as they reduce the colossal burden on hospitals and help contain outbreaks in poorer countries with weak health systems.
It will also strengthen a two-pronged approach to the pandemic: drug treatment and prevention, primarily through vaccination.
The charity Médecins Sans Frontières welcomed Merck’s agreement to share COVID-19 pills, but said it wasn’t enough.
“The license excludes key upper-middle-income countries such as Brazil and China, which have strong, well-established antiviral drug manufacturing and supply capacities,” said Yuanqiong Hu, Senior Legal and Policy Advisor at Médecins Sans Frontières. “, Who called the deal” disappointing. “