The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is committing up to $120 million to facilitate access to Merck's COVID-19 treatment pill molnupiravir in low-income countries around the world once it is approved for emergency-use authorization (EUA) by the Food and Drug Administration.
''To end this pandemic, we need to ensure that everyone, no matter where they live in the world, has access to life-saving health products,'' Melinda French Gates wrote in a statement Wednesday. ''The unjust reality, however, is that low-income countries have had to wait for everything from personal protective equipment to vaccines. That is unacceptable.
''Today's commitment will ensure that more people in more countries get access to the promising drug molnupiravir, but it's not the end of the story — we need other donors, including foundations and governments, to act.''
Merck has requested EUA from the FDA for adults who have mild to moderate infections. The pill has been shown to reduce the risk of hospitalization by 50%.
The FDA may be able to act on the request by December, according to reports.
The decision on whether to authorize the drug for use sits with regulatory agencies, including the World Health Organization, and national governments.
''Africa CDC and the Africa Union have been tracking the exciting developments on the antiviral, molnupiravir,'' Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director John Nkengasong said.
''In order to make sure that Africa is not left behind, we have been working with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation colleagues on various mechanisms they can facilitate, once all of the regulatory processes are completed and the drug is officially made available to the world.''
The delay in getting new treatments to poor countries can be up to 10 months, according to the foundation.
''Merck has taken important steps to make this drug available as a COVID-19 therapy, including negotiating licenses with generics manufacturers to increase supply,'' Bill Gates said. ''We are pleased to work alongside these efforts to ensure affordability and availability in lower-income countries.
''Making life-saving drugs like these available to everyone who needs them is what is necessary to end the acute phase of the pandemic, and open pathways to recovery.''
Vaccination rates in more than 50 poor countries are below 10%, according to the WHO, The Hill reported.
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