American Pharma Company Making Oral Drug To Treat Non-Hospitalised Covid-19 Patients Enters Into Agreement With Five Indian Manufacturers
Molnupiravir is currently undergoing a phase-3 trial for the treatment of non-hospitalised patients with confirmed Covid-19.
An experimental oral antiviral drug called molnupiravir, manufactured by the American pharmaceutical company, Merck, is expected to help stem the cases of coronavirus in India.
The company, which is also known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, announced earlier last week that it has entered into non-exclusive voluntary licensing agreements for the drug with five established Indian generics manufacturers.
Even though there are two Covid-19 vaccines in India—Covaxin and Covishield— it is believed that molnupiravir would play a key role in fighting the massive health crisis in the country.
Kenneth C. Frazier, chairman and CEO, Merck said: “These agreements, toward which we have been working as we have been studying molnupiravir, will help to accelerate access to molnupiravir in India and around the world.”
Merck is developing this drug in collaboration with another American biotechnology company Ridgeback Biotherapeutics.
It is being studied in a Phase-3 trial for the treatment of non-hospitalised patients with confirmed Covid-19.
According to current reports, Mumbai based pharmaceutical company Cipla has signed a non-exclusive licensing agreement with MSD to manufacture and distribute the drug in India and over 100 low and middle-income countries.
The managing director and global CEO of Cipla Ltd, Umang Vohra said that this partnership will expand patient access to quality treatment for Covid-19.
However, apart from Cipla, agreements have been signed with Dr Reddy’s Laboratories Limited, Emcure Pharmaceuticals Limited, Hetero Labs Limited and Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Limited.
Merck is also in talks with the Medicines Patent Pool—a Geneva-based Unitaid-backed international organization—to explore the potential for additional licenses.
Additionally, the company said that it will donate over $5 million worth of oxygen-production equipment, hand sanitiser, masks and financial aid to support relief efforts in India.
The drug, invented by Emory University, was originally developed to treat Eastern Equine Encephalitis, which is a viral illness that can cause inflammation of the brain.
But when the researchers started to investigate the usefulness of molnupiravir, they understood the fact that it has broad-spectrum activity against several respiratory viruses, including influenza and SARS-CoV-2.
Since the experimental drug must be self-administered orally, Dr George Painter, the CEO of Drug Innovation Ventures (DRIVE), a not-for-profit biotechnology company owned by Emory University, believes that molnupiravir is good for the public health emergency in India, where over 3.70 Lakh Covid-19 infections were reported on 29 April.
The CEO of DRIVE, whose mission is to help stem infectious diseases, said that molnupiravir benefits individuals who are early in the course of coronavirus infection.
According to Painter, it also prevents worsening illness in an environment where hospitals are flooded with patients and oxygen is not widely available.
"The hope is that the drug impacts transmission and the early stage of the disease and lowers the burden on an already overburdened health care system," he added.
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