BY MONIQUE BEALS

Medicines Patent Pool, an organization supported by the U.N., announced on Thursday that over two dozen generic drug makers will soon begin producing Merck’s COVID-19 pill to make the treatment more accessible in developing countries.

The organization said that 27 generic drug makers would produce the pill for 105 developing countries. Specifically, agreements the companies signed allow them to make both molnupiravir’s raw ingredients as well as the final product.

Molnupiravir is the COVID-19 treatment developed by Merck and Ridgeback Therapeutics. For patients with early signs of COVID-19, the pill is believed to cut the hospitalization rates in half.

The drug makers producing the generic pills come from 11 countries including Bangladesh, China, Egypt, Vietnam, Kenya and South Africa, the organization said.

“This is a critical step toward ensuring global access to an urgently needed COVID-19 treatment,” Medicines Patent Pool’s executive director Charles Gore said in a statement.

Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has previously referred to molnupiravir as a “game changer.” 

Earlier this week, Merck announced that it had agreed to provide the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) with up to 3 million courses of its antiviral pill.

“I am proud of the fact that patients in these low- and middle-income countries will gain access at the same time as patients in countries with higher incomes,” Merck’s CEO and President Robert Davis said in a statement at the time. 

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