Merck & Co Inc has signed deals to sell over 6 million courses of its experimental COVID-19 pill molnupiravir to governments around the world as nations try to tame the pandemic. The treatment, which received its first regulatory approval globally in Britain, where it is planned to be marketed under the LAGEVRIO trademark, is not the only one in the game.
Last month US peer Pfizer Inc halted early a trial of its antiviral drug Paxlovid after it proved to cut the risk of severe COVID-19 by 89 percent, outdoing the results seen with Merck’s product.
While a review of both treatments is ongoing in the United States, a panel of expert advisers to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) narrowly voted on Tuesday to recommend the agency authorize Merck’s antiviral pill.
In the European Union, Merck’s treatment is still under review by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
However, faced with rising COVID-19 cases, on November 19 the regulator issued advice on using the pill for adults ahead of providing any wider recommendation.
But the UK has already secured half a million doses.
The move sparked the fury of Nexit Denktank campaigner Gabriel van de Bloemfontein, who blasted Brussels over its delays.
He said: “The British have bought 0.5 million corona pills [Molnupiravir].
“The Netherlands as an EU member has nothing yet, because our government wants to do everything in an EU context.
“With vaccines, the British were also almost six months faster.
“Without the EU, they are able to act faster, without bureaucracy.
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Among EU countries, Germany said on November 19 it is in talks with Pfizer, Merck (known in Europe under the MSD name) and “all those who have promising medicines” on COVID-19 treatment.
Belgium said on Wednesday it is in talks with Merck on to buy 10,000 doses of the drugmaker’s COVID-19 pill, adding the country is “in favour of a European joint procurement”.
Following the emergence of the Omicron variant, a Merck executive said on Tuesday its experimental drug should have similar effects against any coronavirus variant.