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MSD Pharmaceuticals, the wholly owned subsidiary of Merck Sharp Dohme, known as Merck & Co in the US, announced that it has decided to enter into non-exclusive voluntary licensing agreements for COVID-19 antiviral drug molnupiravir with five established Indian generic manufacturers.
The US drugmaker has signed licensing agreements with Cipla, Dr Reddy's, Emcure Pharmaceuticals, Hetero Labs and Sun Pharmaceutical Industries – five generic manufacturers with World Health Organization (WHO) Pre-Qualified Manufacturing facilities and experience as major suppliers to global and key low and middle-income country (LMIC) procurers.
Under the agreements, MSD will provide licences to these manufacturers to supply molnupiravir to India and more than 100 LMICs. MSD is also in talks with the Medicines Patent Pool to explore the potential for additional licences.
Molnupiravir is an investigational oral antiviral agent currently being studied in a Phase-3 trial for the treatment of non-hospitalised patients with confirmed COVID-19. MSD is developing molnupiravir in collaboration with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics.
MSD has entered into these agreements to accelerate the availability of molnupiravir in India and in other LMICs following approvals or emergency authorisation by local regulatory agencies.
“The scale of human suffering in India at this moment is devastating, and it is clear that more must be done to help alleviate it. 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,” said Kenneth C. Frazier, chairman and CEO, Merck & Co.
“We remain committed to aiding in the global response that will bring relief to the people of India and, ultimately, bring an end to the pandemic,” Frazier said.
“Through partnerships with established Indian generic manufacturers, we are reinforcing our commitment towards expanding access to molnupiravir in India,” said Rehan A Khan, Managing Director, MSD-India Region.
“We look forward to collaborating with these partners and supporting them in advancing our mission of improving lives. We are in talks with the government and other key stakeholders as we remain committed to expanding equitable access to medicines and bringing innovative treatments to the country,” Khan added.
Separately, MSD will also donate more than $5 million worth of oxygen-production equipment, masks, hand sanitisers and financial aid to support relief efforts in India.