As the world reaches peak Covid infections, the company of the experimental Covid-19 treatment pill, Merck, got the early greenlight to send their anti-viral pill, ‘Molnupiravir’, into production. This rare UN-backed deal grants 27 generic drugmakers from India, China, and other countries in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East permission to produce the finished drugs. The U.S. developers of the drug, Ridgeback Biotherapeutics and Emory University, agreed that they will not receive royalties for the sale of the low-cost versions of the drug to be made by generic drugmakers during what WHO labels as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
While molnupiravir is in use in the United States after approval in December, some other Western countries have canceled or are reconsidering orders after the drug showed low efficacy in trials. In December, the U.S. paid $700 per course of molnupiravir starting with a total of 1.7 million units. The drugs course lasts five days and consists of forty pills to be taken by way of mouth. The pill will be significantly cheaper for the 105 underdeveloped nations, with costs approximating $20 per course. A representative of the MPP told Reuters that the price of the treatment is subject to change due to what we have yet to learn about the drug.
Molnupiravir has yet to be approved by the World Health Organization, making its sale at the moment not possible in most underdeveloped countries with limited regulatory resources for national authorizations. The drug can already be sold in India after it received emergency approval, but it is not currently recommended for use because of safety risks. The low efficacy in testing has raised concerns for side effects.
The drug is expected to be accessible as early as February. However, its release will be subject to regulatory approval and is confined to get distributed only to the 105 less-developed nations. 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.