Merck taps five Indian drugmakers to expand COVID-19 drug production

FILE PHOTO: The Merck logo is seen at a gate to the Merck & Co campus in Rahway, New Jersey, New Jersey
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(Reuters) - Merck & Co Inc said on Tuesday it had partnered with five Indian generic drugmakers, including Cipla Ltd and Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd, to expand production and access to its experimental COVID-19 drug.

The partnership will give the companies license to supply Merck's molnupiravir to India and more than 100 low- and middle-income countries following approvals or emergency authorization by local regulatory agencies, Merck said.

Merck said the move is to help address the raging new wave of COVID-19 in India, which has reported more than 300,000 new COVID-19 cases per day over the past six days.

Drugmaker Gilead Sciences Inc on Monday said it will give India at least 450,000 vials of its antiviral drug, remdesivir, and help boost production in the country.

Merck's non-exclusive production pacts for molnupiravir are with companies including Dr.Reddy's Laboratories Ltd and privately held companies Emcure Pharmaceuticals Ltd and Hetero Labs Ltd.

Molnupiravir is an antiviral therapy Merck is developing with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics for the treatment of non-hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

Merck has decided to focus on its drugs for COVID-19 after two vaccines failed to generate desired immune responses, prompting it to abandon the program in January.

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(Reporting by Manojna Maddipatla in Bengaluru; Editing by Ramakrishnan M. And Shinjini Ganguli)