Merck (NYSE: MRK), known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics today announced that the United States government will exercise two of its options to purchase a total of 1.4 million additional courses of molnupiravir, an investigational oral antiviral medicine, if the medicine is granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) or approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), for approximately $1 billion. With these exercised options, the U.S. government has now committed to purchase a total of approximately 3.1 million courses of molnupiravir, for approximately $2.2 billion, between authorization and early 2022. The U.S. government also has the ability to purchase more than 2 million additional courses through further options that remain in the contract. Merck is developing molnupiravir in collaboration with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics.
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“We’re honored that the U.S. government has chosen to purchase more than 3 million courses of molnupiravir, our promising oral antiviral, so that molnupiravir, if authorized, will be among the vaccines and medicines available to fight COVID-19 as part of our collective efforts to bring this pandemic to an end. In light of the continued impact of the pandemic on hundreds of thousands of people every day, all of us at Merck are moving with urgency and rigor to bring molnupiravir, with its compelling data showing a significant reduction in death and hospitalizations, to patients as quickly as we can,” said Frank Clyburn, president of Human Health, Merck.
Merck and Ridgeback previously announced the submission of an EUA application to the U.S. FDA for molnupiravir for the treatment of mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in adults at risk for progressing to severe COVID-19 and/or hospitalization. The application will be discussed at the FDA’s Antimicrobial Drugs Advisory Committee meeting on Nov. 30, 2021.
This procurement of molnupiravir will be supported in whole with federal funds from the Department of Health and Human Services; Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response; Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, in collaboration with the DOD Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense (JPEO-CBRND) under contract number W911QY21C0031.
About Merck’s Global Efforts to Accelerate Access to Molnupiravir Following Regulatory Authorizations or Approvals
Merck is committed to providing timely access to molnupiravir globally through our comprehensive supply and access approach, which includes investing at risk to produce millions of courses of therapy; tiered pricing based on the ability of governments to finance health care; entering into supply agreements with governments; and granting voluntary licenses to generic manufacturers and to the Medicines Patent Pool to make generic molnupiravir available in more than 100 low- and middle-income countries following local regulatory authorizations or approvals.
Supply: In anticipation of the results from MOVe-OUT and the potential for regulatory authorization or approval, Merck has been producing molnupiravir at risk and expects to produce 10 million courses of treatment by the end of 2021, with at least 20 million courses to be produced in 2022.
Supply agreements: Earlier this year, Merck entered into a procurement agreement with the U.S. Government under which the company will supply approximately 1.7 million courses of molnupiravir to the U.S. Government, upon EUA or approval from the U.S. FDA. Additionally, Merck has entered into supply and advance purchase agreements for molnupiravir with governments worldwide, including the U.K. Government for 480,000 courses of therapy, and is currently in discussions with additional governments. Merck plans to implement a tiered pricing approach based on World Bank country income criteria to reflect countries’ relative ability to finance their health response to the pandemic.
Voluntary licenses: As part of its commitment to widespread global access, Merck previously announced that it has entered into a licensing agreement with the Medicines Patent Pool to increase broad access for molnupiravir in low- and middle-income countries. Additionally, Merck previously announced that the company has entered into non-exclusive voluntary licensing agreements for molnupiravir with established generic manufacturers to accelerate availability of molnupiravir in more than 100 low- and middle-income countries following approvals or emergency authorization by local regulatory agencies.
Merck continues to discuss additional measures and collaborations to accelerate broad, global access to molnupiravir.
Molnupiravir (MK-4482, EIDD-2801) is an investigational, orally administered form of a potent ribonucleoside analog that inhibits the replication of SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent of COVID-19. If authorized or approved, the recommended dose for molnupiravir based on the Phase 3 MOVe-OUT clinical trial would be 800 mg twice daily for five days.
Molnupiravir was invented at Drug Innovations at Emory (DRIVE), LLC, a not-for-profit biotechnology company wholly owned by Emory University; Emory/DRIVE received some research funding from the U.S. Department of Defense and the National Institutes of Health. Molnupiravir is being developed by Merck & Co., Inc. in collaboration with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics. Ridgeback received an upfront payment from Merck and also is eligible to receive contingent payments dependent upon the achievement of certain developmental and regulatory approval milestones. Any profits from the collaboration will be split between the partners equally. Since licensed by Ridgeback, all funds used for the development of molnupiravir have been provided by Merck and by Wayne and Wendy Holman of Ridgeback.
Molnupiravir is also being evaluated for post-exposure prophylaxis in MOVe-AHEAD, a global, multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled Phase 3 study, which is evaluating the efficacy and safety of molnupiravir in preventing the spread of COVID-19 within households. For more information, please visit http://merckcovidresearch.com. Please visit the Merck media library for molnupiravir images and b-roll.
About Ridgeback Biotherapeutics
Headquartered in Miami, Florida, Ridgeback Biotherapeutics LP is a biotechnology company focused on emerging infectious diseases. Ridgeback markets EbangaTM for the treatment of Ebola and has a late-stage development pipeline which includes molnupiravir for the treatment of COVID-19. Development of molnupiravir is entirely funded by Ridgeback Biotherapeutics and Merck & Co., Inc. All equity capital in Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, LP originated from Wayne and Wendy Holman, who are committed to investing in and supporting medical technologies that will save lives. The team at Ridgeback is dedicated to working toward finding life-saving and life-changing solutions for patients and diseases that need champions.
For over 130 years, Merck, known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, has been inventing for life, bringing forward medicines and vaccines for many of the world’s most challenging diseases in pursuit of our mission to save and improve lives. We demonstrate our commitment to patients and population health by increasing access to health care through far-reaching policies, programs and partnerships. Today, Merck continues to be at the forefront of research to prevent and treat diseases that threaten people and animals – including cancer, infectious diseases such as HIV and Ebola, and emerging animal diseases – as we aspire to be the premier research-intensive biopharmaceutical company in the world. For more information, visit www.merck.com and connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn.
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