Global health agency Unitaid said that it would work to provide poorer and middle-income countries access to the experimental Covid-19 pill developed by Merck and Co. The antiviral drug, known as molnupiravir, reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by 50% in an interim analysis of a late-stage clinical trial, Merck and partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics LP said on Friday.
Unitaid's executive director Philip Duneton said that the company was working with its partners worldwide to reach an agreement, possibly as soon as next week."This is really what we've waited for all these months," he said, as quoted by NDTV. "There is a window of hope with this treatment, and now we need to collectively make it work for people in less well-to-do countries."
Earlier this year, Merck announced that it had signed non-exclusive voluntary licensing agreements for the drug with five generic manufacturers in India in a bid to accelerate availability in more than 100 low- and middle-income countries following approvals or emergency authorization by local regulatory agencies.
The new antiviral treatment could be a breakthrough in the fight against the global pandemic as vaccination remains a struggle in the majority of the world. Merck has already laid plans for a tiered price system for the drug based on World Bank income criteria which would help countries adapt the drug to their own healthcare system and budgets.
"What we need to do is to create an affordable but quality market of generics, exactly what we did for combating AIDS," Duneton said. "It's feasible, it can be done."