Oct 27, 2021 - Health

Merck to share antiviral COVID pill formula with developing countries

Merck signage outside of the company's headquarters in Kenilworth, New Jersey.
Photo: Christopher Occhicone/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Merck said Wednesday it granted the Medicines Patent Pool, a United Nations-backed nonprofit, a royalty-free license for molnupiravir, an oral antiviral COVID-19 pill that it developed with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics.

Why it matters: The license means generic-drug companies in 105 low- and middle-income countries will be allowed to produce the experimental drug after it gains regulatory approval, which would greatly expand the availability of the medication to nations that have so far lacked access to coronavirus vaccines.

  • It comes after Merck earlier this month released data from clinical trials showing that the drug reduced the risk of hospitalization or death from COVID-19 by around 50%.

What they're saying: “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," said Charles Gore, executive director of the Medicines Patent Pool.

The big picture: Antiviral COVID-19 medications designed to prevent or treat COVID-19 will be a key tool to combat the pandemic, since not all people will get vaccinated and because it will take potentially years to vaccinate people in developing countries.

  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said earlier this month that it will meet on Nov. 30th to review Merck's emergency use authorization for molnupiravir.

Go deeper: FDA panel endorses Pfizer vaccines for 5-to-11-year-olds

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include that Merck developed molnupiravir with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics.

Go deeper