The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said on Wednesday that it will spend $120 million to provide access to drugmaker Merck’s antiviral Covid-19 pill for lower-income countries if the drug gets authorization by regulations.
As per a statement released by the private foundation, it hasn’t determined how it will allocate the money but will use the funds to “support the range of activities required to develop and manufacture generic versions” of the drug molnupiravir.
The Gates Foundation says its funding is also intended to help ready regulatory, delivery and other pathways in order to make the pill more accessible if it becomes available.
However, Trevor Mundel, the president of the foundation’s global health program, believes the generic manufacturers won’t ramp up their manufacturing unless they know there will be demand, and are likely to wait until next year to begin production.
“We want them not to wait,” he said. “So this money is about getting them active now.”
Merck has licensed its technology with generic drug manufacturers in India.
Under the agreement, the company said it will provide licenses to manufacturers to supply the drug to India and more than 100 other lower and middle-income countries. It’s unclear how much of the generic drug could be available for use.
The Food and Drug Administration hasn’t authorized the pill, and its outside experts are expected to meet on 30 November to scrutinize the drug. If cleared by regulators, the drug will be the first pill available to treat Covid-19.
WHO programme for Merck’s drug
A World Health Organization-led programme to ensure poorer countries get fair access to Covid-19 vaccines, tests and treatments aims to secure antiviral drugs for patients with mild symptoms for as little as $10 per course, reported Reuters.
The news agency said that as per a document reviewed by it, WHO has outlined the goals of the Access to Covid-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) until September next year.
The document says that the programme wants to deliver about 1 billion Covid-19 tests to poorer nations, and procure drugs to treat up to 120 million patients globally, out of about 200 million new cases it estimates in the next 12 months.
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