An experimental COVID-19 treatment pill, called Molnupiravir, developed by Merck & Co Inc. and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics LP, was released by Merck & Co Inc. and can be seen in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters on May 17, 2021. Is. Handout by Merck & Co Inc / REUTERS

The UN-backed agency has struck deals with about 30 generic drug manufacturers to create low-cost versions of Merck’s COVID-19 tablet Molnupiravir for poor countries, expanding access to the drug, which is seen as a weapon to fight the epidemic.

Antiviral drugs, which were approved for emergency use in the U.S. in December, reduce hospitalization and mortality in high-risk patients by about 30%, according to clinical trials.

The agreement negotiated with Merck by the UN-backed Medicine Patent Pool (MPP) allows 27 generic drug manufacturers from India, China and other countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East to produce ingredients and ready-made drugs.

The MPP said on Thursday that the agreement would distribute the pill to 105 least developed countries.

Developers at the US company Ridgeback Biotherapeutics and Emory University, Molnupiravir, together with Merck, will not receive royalties from the sale of cheaper versions made by generic drug companies unless COVID-19 is classified by the world as a public health crisis. Health Organization (WHO).

“This is an important step in ensuring global access to the much-needed COVID-19 treatment, and we are confident that as manufacturers work closely with regulatory authorities, pre-treatment will become available quickly,” said MPP CEO Charles Gore.

Bangladesh’s Beximco Pharmaceuticals, India’s Natco Pharma, South Africa’s Aspen Pharmacare and China’s Fosun Pharma are among the generic pharmaceutical companies that will manufacture the final product.

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