Canada to manufacture Merck COVID-19 antivirals if regulator approves

OTTAWA — Merck Canada announced it plans to manufacture its oral antiviral COVID-19 drug in Canada, making the country a global hub for the production of the potentially game-changing treatment.

The drug company has invested $19 million to scale up production of its antiviral drug, molnupiravir, at Thermo Fisher Scientific’s facility in Whitby, Ont.

The drug — one of the first treatments for non-hospitalized COVID-19 patients — is currently pending Health Canada approval.

The antiviral works by blocking the enzyme essential for viral replication.

Merck’s clinical trial showed a 50 per cent reduced risk of hospitalization or death compared to placebo patients with mild or moderate COVID-19.

Last week Procurement Minister Filomena Tassi announced Canada had signed a deal to purchase 500,000 courses of the oral antiviral drug, with the option to purchase another 500,000 if Health Canada gives the green light.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 6, 2021.

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