Dozens of firms to make cheap version of Merck COVID pill for poorer nations

The new agreement allows 27 generic drugmakers from India, China and other countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East to produce ingredients and the finished drug.

An experimental COVID-19 treatment pill, called molnupiravir and being developed by Merck & Co Inc and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics LP, is seen in this undated handout photo released by Merck & Co Inc and obtained by Reuters May 17, 2021. Merck & Co Inc/Handout via REUTERS

An MPP spokesperson said deliveries from some firms covered by the deal could start as early as February. However, that will be subject to regulatory approval.

While molnupiravir is in use in the United States after approval in December, some other Western countries have cancelled or are reconsidering orders after the drug showed low efficacy in trials.

Molnupiravir has also not been approved by the World Health Organization, which makes its sale at the moment not possible in most developing countries with limited regulatory resources for national authorisations.

The drug can already be sold in India, after it received emergency approval by the national regulator, but it is not currently recommended for use because of safety risks.

NO ROYALTIES, FOR NOW

The developers of molnupiravir, which alongside Merck are U.S. firm Ridgeback Biotherapeutics and Emory University, will not receive royalties for the sale of the low-cost versions made by generic drugmakers while COVID-19 remains classified as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern by the WHO.

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.

Other companies, including India’s Dr Reddy’s Laboratories (REDY.NS), had struck earlier deals with Merck for the production of molnupiravir read more . Dr Reddy’s will sell molnupiravir at 1,400 rupees ($18.8) per course. read more

The MPP spokesperson said there was no firm estimate yet of the likely output from generics makers covered by the deal, but that poorer nations’ demand was expected to be largely covered.

The MPP works to increase access to life-saving medicines for poorer countries. It also has an agreement with Pfizer for the sub-licensing of its COVID-19 pill paxlovid to generics drugmakers.

Reporting by Francesco Guarascio @fraguarascio Editing by David Goodman, Mark Potter and Susan Fenton

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Reuters source:

https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/merck-covid-pill-molnupiravir-be-produced-by-27-drugmakers-2022-01-20