Merck inks licensing pact with Cipla, Sun Pharma, 3 others for oral COVID drug Molnupiravir
Mumbai: In order to accelerate and expand global access to Molnupiravir for treating Covid-19, Merck (known as MSD Pharmaceuticals outside the United States and Canada), has entered into a voluntary licensing agreement with five Indian generics manufacturers including Cipla Limited, Dr Reddy's Laboratories Limited, Emcure Pharmaceuticals Limited, Hetero Labs Limited and Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Limited.
Under the agreements, Merck will provide licenses to these manufacturers to supply molnupiravir to India and more than 100 Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs). Merck is also in discussions with the Medicines Patent Pool to explore the potential for additional licenses.
The agreements have been signed with Cipla Limited, Dr Reddy's Laboratories Limited, Emcure Pharmaceuticals Limited, Hetero Labs Limited and Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Limited – five generics manufacturers with World Health Organization (WHO) Pre-Qualified Manufacturing facilities and experience as major suppliers to global and key LMIC procurers.
Molnupiravir is an investigational oral antiviral agent currently being studied in a Phase 3 trial for the treatment of non-hospitalized patients with confirmed COVID-19. Merck is developing molnupiravir in collaboration with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics.
Molnupiravir (EIDD-2801/MK-4482) is an investigational, orally bioavailable form of a potent ribonucleoside analog that inhibits the replication of multiple RNA viruses including SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent of COVID-19. Molnupiravir has been shown to be active in several models of SARS-CoV-2, including for prophylaxis, treatment and prevention of transmission, as well as SARS-CoV-1 and MERS.EIDD-2801 was invented at Drug Innovations at Emory (DRIVE), LLC, a not-for-profit biotechnology company wholly owned by Emory University. Since licensed by Ridgeback, all funds used for the development of EIDD-2801 by Ridgeback have been provided by Wayne and Wendy Holman and Merck.
These agreements would help to speed up the availability of molnupiravir in India and other low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) after local regulatory approvals or emergency authorizations.
"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. "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."
Separately, Merck will also donate more than USD 5 million worth of oxygen-production equipment, masks, hand sanitizer and financial aid to support relief efforts in India.
As per the current media report, Business Line, Managing Director, MSD-India Region Rehan A Khan confirmed that MSD Pharmaceuticals is reinforcing its commitment to expanding access to molnupiravir in India through partnerships with existing Indian generics manufacturers.
He went on to say that MSD Pharmaceutical is looking forward to collaborating with these companies and assisting them in their efforts to better people's lives. MSD Pharmaceutical is in talks with the government and other key stakeholders, he continued, since it is committed to improving equal access to drugs and introducing innovative therapies to the country.