The lead story in last weekend’s Wall Street Journal made an exciting announcement: “Merck Covid-19 Pill Cuts Risks of Hospitalizations and Death”: “Merck & Co. and its partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics LP said their experimental Covid-19 pill helped prevent high-risk people early in the course of the disease in a pivotal study from becoming seriously ill and dying, a big step toward providing the pandemic’s first easy-to-use, at home treatment.” In case its readers missed the significance, the same issue included an editorial, “There May Soon Be a Covid Pill”, stating: “In what is rare good news these days, Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics said Friday that their Covid pill molnupiravir reduced hospitalizations by about half… Since the beginning of the pandemic, doctors have been hoping for an oral antiviral that could prevent recently infected patients from getting sicker… Merck has also signed licensing agreements with generic manufacturers to accelerate the pills availability world-wide. Manufacturers in low-income countries don’t need special expertise and supervision to produce the pills, unlike with Covid vaccines. Molnupirvir can be easily distributed in poorer countries… Evidence also indicates that the drug is effective against different variants and is unlikely to produce viral resistance.” The partnership between Emory University, Ridgeback Biotherapeutics and Merck could turn out to be one of the most significant Bayh-Dole alliances ever, yet just a few months ago all three were under fire. And the critics are renewing their attacks.
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