27 pharma companies will supply generic COVID drugs to low-income countries

Twenty-seven pharmaceutical companies have agreed to produce a generic version of molnupiravir, Merck’s oral
antiviral for the treatment of COVID-19. The agreement will provide affordable access to the drug in 105 low- and
middle-income countries (LMICs) worldwide.

Merck will licence the medication to companies that meet certain quality-assurance standards, according to the
Geneva-based Medicines Patent Pool, a United Nations-backed public health organisation. For as long as the World
Health Organization classifies COVID-19 as a public health emergency, neither Merck nor its development partners will
get any fees from the licences.

Now, 27 firms have met Merck’s requirements: five will make the drug’s basic ingredients, nine will produce the
completed product, and thirteen will produce both.

Merck Executive Director Charles Gore said in a statement, “We are encouraged by the huge number of new and
existing partners who have moved fast to gain a sublicense for molnupiravir through MPP.” “This is a key step toward
assuring global access to a critically needed COVID-19 treatment, and we are sure that the anticipated medicines will be
available in LMICs quickly because manufacturers are working closely with regulatory authorities.”

“Increasing access to quality-assured generic versions of molnupiravir has been a priority for MSD from the beginning,
which led us to partner with MPP on a licencing agreement to expand access to quality-assured generic versions of
molnupiravir, subject to local regulatory authorisation,” said Paul Schaper, Executive Director of Global Public Policy at
Merck. “We’re excited to see this ambition come to fruition, with MPP’s selected generic manufacturing sublicensees
offering a wide range of regional variety.”

The manufacturers involved in the deal are Pakistan’s Remington; Egypt and Jordan’s Hikma; Kenya’s Universal
Corporation; South Africa’s Aspen and CPT,;China’s BrightGene, Desano, Fosun Pharma, Langhua, and Lonzeal; South
Korea’s Celltrion, DongBang, and Hanmi; Bangladesh’s Beximco and Incepta; Vietnam’s Stella; Indonesia’s Kimia Farma;
and 10 Indian companies: Arene Lifesciences, BDR, Biophore, Laurus Labs, Lupin, MSN, Natco, Optimus, SMS, and

Merck collaborated with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics and Emory University to develop the medication. Despite a decline
in published efficacy from 48 percent to 30 percent due to new trial results, it got approval from the UK’s Medicines
and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in November and emergency use approval from the US Food and
Drug Administration (FDA).

This licencing agreement, as well as one struck by Pfizer for its antiviral, go a long way toward improving parity in
COVID-19 treatment, although the Wall Street Journal recently noted that even reduced prices from generic
manufacturers could be an issue for very low-income countries. In addition, some countries have insufficient testing,
which may prevent the treatments from being used when they are most beneficial.

Strides Pharma Science signs a deal with MPP to market molnupiravir in international markets

Strides Pharma Science has partnered with Medicines Patent Pool MPP, based in Geneva, to commercialise the antiviral medication molnupiravir in worldwide markets.

According to a statement from MPP, the company and its affiliate, Universal Corporation (Kenya), have entered into a voluntary non-exclusive sub-license relationship covering 105 countries.

Strides and UCL will produce the product in India and Nairobi, Kenya, in WHO-approved facilities. One of the two WHO PQ facilities in Sub-Saharan Africa is owned and operated by UCL.

“While our 200mg strength was launched in India under the Stripiravir brand, this partnership will allow us to commercialise the 400mg dose alongside the 200mg dose for global markets, extending significant patient benefits with higher compliance and better administration,” said R Ananthanarayanan, MD and CEO of Strides Pharma Science.

Strides Group would continue to develop and produce high-quality generic medications that will help the healthcare system and patients, notwithstanding the challenging COVID scenario in various regions of the world, it added.

Molnupiravir is an orally given ribonucleoside derivative that inhibits SARS CoV2 replication and has been demonstrated to be effective against the most frequent COVID-19 variations in clinical investigations. Strides acquired an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the DCGI in December 2021 to introduce molnupiravir 200mg in India.

Turkey has pledged 15 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to Africa

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated at a major conference of African leaders that Turkey will deliver 15 million Covid-19 vaccine shots to the continent, calling the continent’s poor vaccination rates a “blot on humanity.”

During Erdogan’s tenure as Prime Minister and subsequently President of Turkey, which began in 2003, Ankara has made significant investments in building trade and diplomatic ties with the world’s poorest continent.

Erdogan told a crowd of hundreds of leaders and ministers that Turkey would provide 15 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine to Africa, where cases are quickly increasing and immunisation rates are poor.

“We are aware of the global inequity in receiving the Covid-19 vaccine, as well as Africa’s unfair treatment,” Erdogan stated.

Turkey is researching on its own vaccine, dubbed Turkovac, which is currently awaiting emergency use approval.

Erdogan stated that after any approval, it will be shared with Africa.

Turkey’s remarks did not make it clear whether it would deliver certain doses of the globally licenced vaccinations it is presently employing, including those made by Pfizer-BioNTech.

“Within our resources, we plan to share 15 million vaccine shots in the coming months to help to the settlement of this crisis,” he stated.

Soaring infection rates

According to AFP calculations based on government numbers, the number of new infections across Africa has increased by 57% in the last week.

The worst-affected country is South Africa, which was one of the first in the world to be infected with the new Omicron form, which is thought to be even more contagious than previous coronavirus strains.

Erdogan stated that Turkey wished to improve ties with Africa in a variety of areas, including health, defence, energy, agriculture, and technology.

“Our true potential goes much beyond the goals we’ve set,” he remarked.

Turkey and African countries agreed in a final agreement to deepen cooperation in a number of areas, including health, “via more health sector investments.”

“We decided on a road map to improve our relations with the declaration we approved at this summit and the joint action plan,” Erdogan said at a concluding press conference.

Focus on trade

In the last 20 years, trade between Turkey and Africa has increased from $5.4 billion to $25.3 billion (4.8 billion euros to 22.5 billion euros).

Erdogan claimed that it had reached $30 billion in the first 11 months of 2021.

Turkey has set a new trade volume target for the future: $75 billion.

The third Turkish-African summit, which is by far the largest to date, is being attended by 16 African presidents of state and 102 ministers, including 26 top diplomats, according to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

Erdogan also met with African leaders one-on-one, including Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, all of whom have showed interest in Turkey’s defence industry.

The next Turkey-Africa conference will take place in an unnamed African country in 2026.

3 million US Dollars boost has been given to a Kenyan medical firm

Revital Healthcare EPZ Ltd, a Kilifi-based medical supplies manufacturer, has obtained a new round of funding from two Japanese companies, allowing it to expand its production capacity.

Revital Healthcare has received a USD3 million (Sh339 million) investment from Asia Africa Investment and Consulting Pte Ltd (AAIC) and Ohara Pharmaceutical Company Ltd.

The Kilifi-based business, which is one of only 25 auto-disable syringe manufacturers pre-qualified by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the only one in Africa, will increase its yearly production capacity from 75 million to more than 400 million.

This comes after the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation invested Sh440 million in the company, boosting output to at least 300 million syringes per year by 2022, according to the company’s sales, marketing, and product development director Roneek Vora.

Revital believes that the support will result in the development of over 100 direct new employment and over 5,000 indirect new jobs, with at least 50% of new hires being women.

As the global rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations advances, demand for auto-disable syringes has risen.

According to PATH, a global non-profit organisation dedicated to advancing public health, there will be a scarcity of approximately 2.2 billion 0.5ml vaccine syringes in 2022.

In low and middle-income countries, particularly in Africa, this will have a significant impact on the Covid-19 immunisation effort, child immunisation, and inoculation of the new malaria vaccines.

Revital now produces 45 critical medical disposables, including syringes, Rapid Diagnostic Test Kits for Covid and Malaria, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits, surgical face masks, and viral transmission medium kits.

The investment comes at a time when the Omicron variant of Covid-19 is rapidly spreading over the world, causing countries to reintroduce severe measures such as lockdowns in an attempt to limit the infection.

In a statement, Vora stated, “Expanding manufacturing capacity in Africa for crucial goods like syringes is essential to secure adequate supply for the continent.”

He expressed his pride in the company’s contribution to worldwide efforts to guarantee that Africans have access to life-saving immunisation syringes.

Revital Healthcare chairman Rajni Vora stated that the business plans to expand into the diagnostics line, laboratory consumables, and other more necessary medical supplies with the financing from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, AAIC, and Ohara Pharmaceuticals.

President and CEO of Ohara Pharmaceuticals Ltd, Seiji Ohara, stated that the demand for medical syringes that protect African lives against not just Covid-19 but also other infectious diseases including malaria and HIV/AIDS will increase in the future.

“We are committed to and excited about this strategic relationship in addressing the current and future global health crises from Africa,” Handa stated.