Merck to share antiviral COVID pill formula with developing countries

Merck said Wednesday it granted the Medicines Patent Pool, a United Nations-backed nonprofit, a royalty-free license for molnupiravir, its oral antiviral COVID-19 pill.

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.

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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.

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

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