The American laboratory Merck announced on Wednesday an agreement that could make it possible to widely distribute in poor countries generic versions of its anti-Covid-19 drug intended for people infected with the disease.
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The Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) said it has signed a voluntary licensing agreement with Merck to facilitate affordable global access to molnupiravir, the experimental oral antiviral drug against Covid-19, developed by Merck. Subject to regulatory approval, the deal will help broaden access to molnupiravir in 105 low- and middle-income countries.
The drug regulatory authorities in the United States and the European Union have already launched an evaluation of this drug.
Antivirals like molnupiravir work by decreasing the ability of a virus to replicate, thereby slowing down the disease.
Given to patients within days of a positive test, the treatment halves the risk of hospitalization, according to a clinical trial conducted by Merck, also called MSD outside the United States.
The Geneva-based MPP is an international organization supported by the United Nations that works to facilitate development and improve access to medicines in low- and middle-income countries, through an innovative approach to granting voluntary licenses and patent pooling.
“Convincing” provisional results
As part of the deal, Merck licenses MPP which can then sublicense generic drug manufacturers. The deal means the drug's developers will not receive rights to sales as long as Covid-19 remains classified as a public health emergency of international concern by the World Health Organization (WHO). Last week, its emergency committee reconfirmed the maximum alert status of the pandemic.
The interim results for molnupiravir are compelling and we see this oral therapy candidate as a potentially important tool to help address the current health crisis
,” said MPP Executive Director Charles Gore.
He hopes this first voluntary licensing agreement for a drug linked to Covid-19 will encourage other companies to come forward.
Merck is jointly developing molnupiravir with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics.
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Miami-based CEO Wendy Holman said, "
We are pleased to work with MPP to ensure that quality generic versions of molnupiravir can be developed and distributed promptly after regulatory clearance
Partnerships and collaboration can do more to meet the challenges of global health than an organization could do on its own,
” she added.