On Wednesday, Merck & Co. announced a deal with the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP), a United Nations-backed public health organization, which would allow drug companies to manufacture generic versions of Molnupiravir, a potential COVID-19 pill, according to German-based news outlet Deutsche Welle (DW).

This deal would help millions of people in poorer nations access generic molnupiravir, the drug that is developed by Merck in association with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics.

MPP works to increase access to, and facilitate the development of, life-saving medicines for low- and middle-income countries.

Merck’s royalty-free license would apply to more than 100 such countries, meaning the company will not receive sales royalties while COVID-19 remains classified as a “public health emergency of international concern” by the World Health Organization (WHO), according to DW.

In a joint statement, Merck and MPP said, “This is the first transparent, public health-driven voluntary license for a COVID-19 medical technology.”

Molnupiravir has been found highly effective in reducing the risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death by 50% when given to patients who test positive for COVID-19. No deaths were reported during the Phase 3 trial of the drug; however, eight people who received a placebo died.

Charles Gore, Executive Director of MPP, said, “The interim results for molnupiravir are compelling and we see this oral treatment candidate as a potentially important tool to help address the current health crisis.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) are reviewing the drug. And their decision could come within weeks.

Merck’s Executive Director Paul Schaper told Reuters, “We all along knew that we would want to diversify the geographic footprint of our generic partners so that we did not only have generic suppliers in India but in other geographies as well.” The article was published in DW and Science – The Wire.