The United Kingdom last week became the first country to authorize molnupiravir, an antiviral that cut Covid hospitalizations by 50 percent in a clinical trial where it also prevented 100 percent of deaths. AFP

Merck hopes that the Covid pill will be offered simultaneously in both wealthy and impoverished countries. Merck, the world’s largest pharmaceutical company, has pledged to avoid the mistakes of the worldwide Covid vaccination deployment by making its new Covid pill available in both rich and poor nations at almost the same time.

According to Paul Schaper, Merck’s executive director of global public policy, the corporation began working on its access plan in July 2020, well before the effectiveness findings of the medication it developed with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics were released in October 2021.

“We began creating our supply chain very early on,” he said, adding that the business expects to have 10 million courses available by the end of this year and at least quadruple that amount by 2022.

Merck has negotiated agreements with eight licenced generic partners in India, as well as a voluntary licencing arrangement with the UN-backed Medicines Patent Pool, to enable access in 105 countries.

Furthermore, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced last month an investment of up to $120 million in an effort to accelerate access to lower-income nations through a “volume agreement” that secures supply of medication components.

“In the first and second quarters of 2022, we will have a large volume of Merck product available in low and middle income countries,” Schaper noted, without elaborating on a total figure for the various strands.
“We have a pretty excellent opportunity of having actually much more equal access to this treatment than we’ve seen to date in the COVID response,” he said, adding that low-, middle-, and high-income nations may be reached “about at the same time.”

The Covid pill distribution, on the other hand, has been very inequitable, with high-income nations stockpiling supplies since the launch began in December 2020.

While 51% of the globe has already gotten one or more doses, this proportion drops to 4% in low-income nations and 3% on the African continent.

The United Arab Emirates, on the other hand, has fully immunised 88 percent of its almost 10 million citizens.

While vaccinations remain the “cornerstone” of pandemic response, “there will be a need for medicines, and there’s probably going to be an even higher demand in countries where you have a lower proportion of persons that are vaccinated,” Schaper said.