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Merck agrees to allow other companies to make COVID-19 pill molnupiravir

Merck agrees to allow other companies to make COVID-19 pill molnupiravir
The agreement means that Merck won't receive royalties from other production of the drug for as long as COVID-19 is considered a global health emergency.  File Photo by Justin Lane/EPA-EFE

Oct. 27 (UPI) -- Pharma company Merck is temporarily allowing other drugmakers to produce its COVID-19 pill molnupiravir in an effort to help fight the disease in poorer countries, officials said Wednesday.

The Medicines Patent Pool, a United Nations nonprofit organization, announced the move, which will allow other qualified drug companies to manufacture the pill.

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The licensing agreement means that neither Merck nor partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics will receive royalties from other production of the drug, for as long as COVID-19 is considered a global health emergency.

"The interim results for molnupiravir are compelling and we see this oral treatment candidate as a potentially important tool to help address the current health crisis," MPP Executive Director Charles Gore said in a statement.

"This transparent, public health-driven agreement is MPP's first voluntary license for a COVID-19 medical technology, and we hope that MSD's agreement with MPP will be a strong encouragement to others."

MPP intends to make Merck's drug available to poorer countries in Asia and Africa that are having more difficulty fighting the pandemic because drug and vaccine availability is scarce.

Molnupiravir, which has shown to reduce the rate of hospitalizations and deaths, could become the first pill authorized by the Food and Drug Administration to treat COVID-19.

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Merck formally requested emergency authorization for the pill earlier this month. An FDA advisory panel will vote on the request at a hearing on Nov. 30.

Pfizer has developed a similar pill that's presently undergoing late-stage trials.

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