CHEAP VERSION OF MERCK COVID PILL TO BE MADE FOR POORER NATIONS

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An experimental COVID-19 treatment pill, called molnupiravir and being developed by Merck & Co Inc and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics LP, is seen in this undated handout photo released by Merck & Co Inc and obtained by Reuters May 17, 2021. Merck & Co Inc/Handout via REUTERS

A UN-backed agency has struck a deal with nearly 30 generic drugmakers to make low-cost versions of Merck’s COVID-19 pill molnupiravir for poorer countries, expanding access to a drug seen as a weapon to fight the pandemic. 

The antiviral drug, which  received emergency use approval in the US in December, reduces hospitalizations and deaths  by about 30% in high-risk patients, according to clinical trials. 

The agreement, negotiated by the U.N.-backed Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) with Merck, allows 27 generic drugmakers from India, China and other countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East to manufacture…

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