Merck signs licensing agreement to broaden generic manufacturing of its COVID-19 pill
27 October 2021 -

US pharmaceutical company Merck & Co Inc (NYSE:MRK) has signed a licensing agreement with the United Nations-backed Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) that will allow more companies to manufacture generic versions of its experimental oral antiviral COVID-19 treatment, molnupiravir, Reuters news agency reported on Wednesday.

Merck said the royalty-free license would apply to 105 low- and middle-income countries.

This will allow manufacturers selected by MPP to make generic versions of molnupiravir, which Merck has developed with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics.

Merck and MPP said in a joint statement: "This is the first transparent, public health-driven voluntary license for a COVID-19 medical technology."

The statement added that companies will be able to apply for a sub-license from MPP and the license, which also includes technology transfer, will remain royalty-free so long as the World Health Organisation classifies the pandemic as a "Public Health Emergency of International Concern."

Earlier this year, Merck had signed bilateral licensing deals with eight Indian generic drugmakers. This agreement with MPP broadens the manufacturing base beyond those companies.

The US Food and Drug Administration is currently considering emergency use authorisation of the medicine, which was shown in a clinical trial to halve the risk of serious disease and death when given early for COVID-19.