Gates Foundation Invests $ 120 Million to Access COVID Pill

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced on Wednesday an investment of up to $ 120 million to make it easier for poor countries to access a promising treatment for COVID19 in pill form.

• See also: Merck has submitted an application in the United States for authorization of its pill against COVID

The American laboratory Merck has developed a drug, molnupiravir, which greatly reduces the risk of hospitalization and death when taken in the first days of infection.

This easy-to-administer tablet treatment offers a long-awaited alternative to vaccines, particularly for countries that have difficulties accessing the latter. Its authorization is currently being evaluated by the United States Drug Administration (FDA).

The money invested by the Gates Foundation will be used in particular to encourage the production of generics of the drug by companies, in particular Indian companies, to which Merck has already granted a license.

Merck plans to manufacture the doses necessary for 10 million treatments before the end of the year. But much of it runs the risk of returning to rich countries, as was the case with vaccines.

“The global supply (of vaccines) has been bought by rich countries,” Trevor Mundel, president of the foundation’s global health division, told AFP. “We have to prevent this from happening again.”

Some generics “have said they can easily produce 10 million treatments per month, but the problem is that they probably won’t until they see what the demand is and who will pay,” he explained. “This is what we want to accelerate, we don’t want them to wait.”

The Gates Foundation has also enabled the development of a “simpler and more cost-effective” technique to make this drug, which has been shared with generic manufacturers.

It also plans to invest part of the money in communication programs around the use of this drug, so that it is known in these countries and that it is used appropriately.

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