Merck Authorizes Indian Pharma Company to Manufacture and Supply Affordable COVID-19 Pills

By Naveen Athrappully
Naveen Athrappully
Naveen Athrappully
Naveen Athrappully is a news reporter covering business and world events at The Epoch Times.
January 5, 2022Updated: January 5, 2022

Indian multinational pharmaceutical company Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories will be launching a generic version of Merck’s COVID-19 oral antiviral medication molnupiravir at an extremely affordable treatment rate of 1,400 Rupees ($18.84), 37 times cheaper than in the United States.

Dr. Reddy’s “Molflu” will be priced at $0.47 per 200-milligram pill, with a treatment consisting of a five-day course of 40 pills, 800 mg twice per day. In the United States, the treatment with Merck’s capsules costs $700.

“Molflu is expected to be available from early next week in pharmacies throughout [India] with particular focus on states with high caseload of COVID-19,” the company spokesperson said, according to Reuters.

On Dec. 25, there were 6,987 new cases of COVID-19 reported in India with a seven-day average of 7,658. On Jan. 4, the number of new cases was 58,097, an increase of 730 percent, with the new seven-day average rising to 29,925. The first Omicron coronavirus variant case in India was registered on Dec. 2.

The country has approved the use of molnupiravir under emergency conditions as the region braces for a potential Omicron-headed new wave of infections. From next week, Molflu is expected to be available in all major pharmacies, especially in the hardest-hit Indian states.

Dr. Reddy’s will manufacture the drug in U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved facilities, and the company “has made adequate capacity preparations to ensure that it is able to help patients in India as well as in patient populations in need around the world,”  the company said in a Dec. 28, 2021, statement.

The pharma corporation recently entered into a nonexclusive voluntary licensing agreement with Merck to make and supply molnupiravir in India, as well as more than 100 low- and middle-income countries.

Invented by Emory University in Atlanta, Merck’s drug inhibits the replication of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and is a result of research collaboration with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, a Florida-based biotech company. It has received approval from regulatory authorities in the UK, the United States, and Japan for the treatment of nonhospitalized patients with mild to moderate cases of COVID-19.

Merck has approved 13 Indian companies to manufacture the drug, including Dr. Reddy’s, Cipla, Sun Pharma, and BDR. It intends to utilize resources in the region to develop a production hub for pharmaceuticals, BusinessToday reported.

Molnupiravir can be used by adult patients with 93 percent blood oxygen levels who exhibit a high risk of progression of infection. The drug is not authorized for those under 18. The pills must not be used for more than five consecutive days.