Drug firm MSD announced on Tuesday its decision to enter into voluntary licencing agreements with five Indian generic manufacturers to supply its investigational oral antiviral drug candidate 'molnupiravir', which is currently being studied for the treatment of COVID-19 patients.
The company, known as Merck in the US and Canada, has inked pacts with Cipla, Dr Reddy's Laboratories, Sun Pharma, Hetero Labs, and Emcure Pharmaceuticals. MSD is in the process of developing molnupiravir in collaboration with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics.
"MSD has entered into these agreements to accelerate the availability of molnupiravir in India and in other low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) following approvals or emergency authorization by local regulatory agencies," the company said in a statement. MSD India is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD).
These five manufacturers have World Health Organisation (WHO) Pre-Qualified Manufacturing facilities and experience as major suppliers to global and key low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) procurers, MSD India 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 & Co, Inc, US Chairman and CEO Kenneth C Frazier said.
"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," he added.
Under the agreements, Merck & Co, Inc, US will provide licences to these manufacturers to supply molnupiravir to India and more than 100 LMICs. The company is also in discussions with the Medicines Patent Pool to explore the potential for additional licenses, the statement said.
"Through partnerships with established Indian generics manufacturers, we are reinforcing our commitment towards expanding access to molnupiravir in India," MSD-India Region MD Rehan A Khan said.
Merck & Co, Inc will also donate more than $5 million worth of oxygen-production equipment, masks, hand sanitiser, and financial aid to support relief efforts in India, the statement said.