India has approved Merck’s (MRK.N) COVID-19 pill and two more vaccines for emergency use as the world’s second-most populous country braces for a possible spike in coronavirus cases due to the rapidly spreading Omicron variant.
Asia’s third-largest economy has already said it will allow COVID-19 booster shots for some of its population as some Indian states logged an uptick in Omicron cases.
The emergency approvals come at a time measures are being taken to ramp up oxygen supplies and strengthen the country’s health infrastructure.
Molnupiravir will be manufactured in India by 13 companies for restricted use under emergency situation for the treatment of adult patients with COVID-19, the country’s Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said on Tuesday.
Merck’s anti-viral pill molnupiravir was authorized by the United States last week for certain high-risk adult patients and has been shown to reduce hospitalizations and deaths by around 30% in a clinical trial.
Earlier this year, Aurobindo Pharma (ARBN.NS), Cipla (CIPL.NS), Sun Pharmaceuticals (SUN.NS), and some others signed non-exclusive voluntary licensing agreements with Merck to manufacture and supply molnupiravir in India.
Two other COVID-19 vaccines, Serum Institute of India’s version of Novavax Inc’s (NVAX.O) shot, Covovax, and homegrown drugmaker Biological E’s Corbevax were also granted emergency use approval, Mandaviya said on Twitter.