Gates Foundation pledges $120M to get COVID-19 antiviral pill to poor countries

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said Oct. 20 it will commit up to $120 million to boost access for lower income countries to Merck's COVID-19 antiviral pill molnupiravir once it is approved. 

The foundation said the money will also support making generic versions of Merck's drug. 

"To end this pandemic, we need to ensure that everyone, no matter where they live in the world, has access to lifesaving health products. The unjust reality, however, is that low-income countries have had to wait for everything from personal protective equipment to vaccines. That is unacceptable," Melinda French Gates, co-chair of the foundation, said in a news release. 

Merck applied for emergency use authorization for molnupiravir Oct. 11 and has released data showing that the pill reduced the risk of hospitalization or death from COVID-19 by about 50 percent in a phase 3 trial. The drugmaker asked for the drug to be authorized to treat mild to moderate COVID-19 in adults at risk of progressing to severe disease. 

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said it is hoping to reduce the time it takes for new drugs to reach low-income countries after their approval, and said the standard gap in rolling out global health products can be 12 months or more. 

Read the full news release here


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