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In a notable bid to widen access to Covid-19 remedies, Merck (MRK) has agreed to license its widely anticipated antiviral pill to the Medicines Patent Pool, which in turn can now strike deals with other manufacturers to provide versions of the drug to 105 low and middle-income countries.

The deal builds on a separate agreement that Merck made with eight generic companies that licensed the pill, which is called molnupiravir, in order to make knock-off copies for the same group of countries. The arrangement with the Medicines Patent Pool, however, means that still more manufacturers can now strike so-called sub-licensing deals, which would presumably increase availability more rapidly.


More broadly, this latest agreement is considered significant because it is the first in which the Medicines Patent Pool – a public health organization backed by the United Nations – has struck a licensing deal for Covid-19 medical products. Until now, the Medicines Patent Pool has focused on licensing HIV, tuberculosis and hepatitis C treatments to be made available in lower-income nations (here is the license).

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