Merck to share formula for ‘game-changing’ COVID-19 pill with 105 countries

Oct. 27, 2021

Just weeks after Merck applied for an EUA for its antiviral COVID-19 drug, the company has announced plans to make its formula available in some of the poorest countries in the world.

Called molnupiravir, the drug has been heralded as a potential game-changer because it comes in the form of an oral solid dosage — making it much easier and cheaper to produce and distribute around the world than other options on the market. 

And earlier this month, armed with interim data suggesting that the drug can half hospitalizations and death in at-risk patients, Merck applied for an EUA with the FDA. 

Now, while it waits for news from the agency, Merck has announced how it will create broad access to the drug: The company has teamed up with a nonprofit called the Medicines Patent Pool, an UN-backed organization that helps facilitate development and manufacturing for drugs for low- and middle-income countries. 

Under the agreement, up to 105 countries will be able to produce molnupiravir. Notably, Merck said that the company will not receive royalties under this agreement as long as COVID-19 is still classified as a public health emergency by the WHO.

A course of molnupiravir costs about $17.75 to manufacture and Merck has gotten flak for charging the U.S. government more than $700. But Merck has maintained that it is implementing a tiered pricing structure to make the drug more affordable around the world.