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World Health Organization aims to help poor countries access vaccine with $10 Covid antiviral pills from Merck

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Molnupiravir COVID tablets are being developed by Merck & Company Inc. and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics.

Brussels:

A World Health Organization-led program to ensure that poor countries have fair access to COVID-19 vaccines, testing and treatment aims to provide antiviral drugs for patients with mild symptoms for at least $10 per month. The course is to be secured, says a draft document seen by Reuters.

Merck & Co.’s experimental pill mollupiravir, one of the potential drugs to treat mild patients, is being developed.

The document, which outlines targets for access to the COVID-19 Tool Accelerator (ACT-A) by September next year, says the program seeks to deliver nearly one billion COVID-19 tests to poor countries, and the need for drugs to treat wants to purchase. Around 200 million new cases are projected over the next 12 months, up to 120 million patients globally.

The plans highlight how the WHO wants to ramp up the supply of drugs and tests at relatively low costs to rich countries after losing the vaccine race, which secured a large chunk of the world’s supply, to the world’s poorest. Left the countries with few shots.

A spokesperson for ACT-A said the October 13 document was still a draft under consultation and declined to comment on its contents before finalizing it. The document will also be sent to global leaders ahead of the G20 summit to be held in Rome later this month.

ACT-A calls for an additional $22.8 billion in funding from the G20 and other donors by September 2022, needed to buy and distribute vaccines, drugs and tests to poorer countries, and to bridge the huge supply gap between richer and less advanced countries. will have to do. Donors have so far pledged $18.5 billion to the program.

Financial requests are based on detailed estimates about the cost of drugs, treatments and tests, which will account for the largest costs of the program, along with the cost of distributing vaccines.

Although it does not explicitly cite mollupiravir, the ACT-A document expects to pay $10 dollars per course for a “novel oral antiviral for mild/moderate patients.”

Other pills are being developed to treat mild patients, but molanupiravir is the only one that has shown positive results in a trial of late. ACT-A is in talks with Merck & Co and generic manufacturers to buy the drug.

The price is much lower than the $700 per course that the United States has agreed to pay for 1.7 million courses of treatment.

However, a study conducted by Harvard University estimated that mollupiravir could cost around $20 dollars if produced by generic drug manufacturers, and the price could potentially be as high as $7.7 under an optimized production. Is.

Merck & Co has inked licensing deals with eight Indian generic drug manufacturers.

The ACT-A document says it aims to strike a deal by the end of November to secure a supply of the “oral outpatient drug,” aiming to be available by the first quarter of next year.

Funds raised will initially be used “to support the purchase of 28 million treatment courses for the highest risk mild/moderate patients over the next 12 months, based on product availability, clinical guidance, and volumes changing with evolving needs.” for” will be done. The document says, noting that this quantity will be secured under an advance purchase agreement.

Large quantities of new oral antivirals are also expected to be procured at a later stage to treat mild patients, the document said.

Another 4.3 million courses of COVID-19 pills to treat critical patients are also expected to be purchased at a price of $28 per course, without naming any specific drug, the document said.

ACT-A also intends to meet the essential medical oxygen needs of six to eight million critical and critical patients by September 2022.

testing

In addition, the program plans to invest massively in COVID-19 diagnostics to at least double the number of tests performed in poor countries, which are classified as low-income and low-middle income countries. has been defined.

Of the $22.8 billion, ACT-A plans to spend about a third and largest portion on diagnostics over the next 12 months, the document said.

Currently, poor countries conduct an average of about 50 tests per 100,000 people, while rich countries have 750 tests. ACT-A wants to bring testing rates in poorer states to a minimum of 100 tests per 100,000.

This means delivering nearly one billion tests over the next 12 months, nearly 10 times more than the ACT-A so far, the document shows.

The largest portion of diagnostics will be rapid antigen testing at a cost of about $3, and only 15 percent will be spent to purchase molecular tests, which are more accurate but take longer to produce results and have an estimated cost of about $17. , which includes delivery costs, the document shows.

The document said the emphasis on tests is meant to bridge the gap between rich and poor, as only 0.4 percent of the nearly three billion tests reported worldwide have been conducted in poor countries.

It will also help identify potential new forms earlier, which tend to spread when the infection is widespread, and therefore more likely to occur in countries with low vaccination rates.

The document underscores that “vaccine access is highly uneven, with coverage ranging from one percent to 70 percent, depending largely on the wealth of a country.”

The program aims to vaccinate at least 70 percent of the eligible population in all countries by the middle of next year, in line with WHO goals.

(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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