MSD and government in discussions over COVID-19 treatment

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MSD says it has had discussions with the Australian government about its investigative oral antiviral candidate for the treatment of COVID-19.

Last week, the company announced a procurement agreement with the US government for molnupiravir (MK-4482).

The oral therapy, which MSD is developing under a collaboration with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, is currently in a phase three trial. It is being evaluated for the treatment of non-hospitalised patients with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 and at least one risk factor associated with poor disease outcomes.

Under the deal with the US, MSD will receive US$1.2 billion to supply approximately 1.7 million courses of molnupiravir. The company said it expects to produce more than 10 million courses of therapy by the end of 2021. It has also announced non-exclusive voluntary licensing agreements with generic manufacturers to accelerate the availability of molnupiravir in 104 low and middle-income countries.

"MSD Australia has had productive discussions with the Australian Department of Health about our COVID-19 investigative oral antiviral candidate, which is currently being studied for the treatment of non-hospitalised patients with COVID-19," said a spokesperson for the company.

"A Phase 3 clinical trial in outpatient settings is currently underway and the results of this trial will be shared with Australian health authorities as soon as the data is ready. MSD is committed to providing timely access to molnupiravir globally where it is authorized or approved.

"The pharmaceutical industry has been able to bring forward so many promising medicines and vaccines for SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19, and this is a testament to the continued investments that we and others in the industry have made over time."