Dr Reddy's to launch generic COVID-19 Merck drug at about 50 cents a pill

An experimental COVID-19 treatment pill, called molnupiravir and being developed by Merck & Co Inc and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics LP, is seen in this undated handout photo released by Merck & Co Inc and obtained by Reuters on October 26, 2021. Merck & Co Inc/Handout via REUTERS

BENGALURU, Jan 4 (Reuters) - Indian drugmaker Dr Reddy's Laboratories Ltd (REDY.NS) will launch its generic version of Merck's (MRK.N) antiviral COVID-19 pill, molnupiravir, and price it at 35 rupees ($0.4693) per capsule, a company spokesperson said on Tuesday.

The overall cost for a patient treated with a 5-day course of 40 capsules of the generic drug, to be sold under brand name 'Molflu', will come up to 1,400 rupees ($18.77). In comparison, the treatment with Merck's pill in the United States costs $700.

"Molflu is expected to be available from early next week in pharmacies throughout (India) with particular focus on states with high caseload of COVID-19," the company spokesperson said.

India last week gave emergency use approval to molnupiravir along with two vaccines, as the country braces for a possible spike in coronavirus cases due to the rapidly spreading Omicron variant. read more

The South Asian nation reported 37,379 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, its highest since early September. read more

With a view to turn India into a manufacturing hub, Merck has entered into licensing agreements with eight domestic drugmakers, including Dr Reddy's, to make and supply generic versions of molnupiravir to over 100 low- and middle- income countries.

A total of 13 companies in India will make molnupiravir, the country's health minister said last week.

Governments around the world have been scrambling to buy a similar but more effective antiviral treatment from Pfizer (PFE.N), while Merck's pill has faced some setbacks after disappointing trial data. read more

($1 = 74.5800 Indian rupees)

Reporting by Anuron Kumar Mitra in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli

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