Will New Covid Treatments Be as Elusive for Poor Countries as Vaccines?
Merck has taken a step to make its antiviral pill available in poor nations, but many obstacles remain for broad access to coronavirus drugs.
Nearly a year after the first Covid-19 vaccination campaigns began, the vast majority of the shots have gone to people in wealthy nations, with no clear path toward resolving the disparity.
The drug, molnupiravir, made by Merck, is easy to distribute and can be taken at home.
Generic production licenses for restricted areas can make middle-income countries with weak public health systems pay prices almost as high as rich ones.
If Merck, or Pfizer fail to guarantee widespread availability of Covid treatments, they could face widespread use of compulsory licensing, with governments lifting intellectual property restrictions to allow drug production.
Unitaid, the Geneva-based global health agency, said $3.5 billion in new funding from rich countries was needed to make therapies accessible, most of it for antivirals in low-income countries.
“We need a global effort. We need donors to make more money available to make sure treatments reach everyone,” said Janet Ginnard, strategy director.