US-based pharmaceutical firm Gilead has entered a non-exclusive licensing agreement with four Indian and one Pakistani firms for the manufacturing and distribution of Remdesivir to 127 countries.

The drug is being tested as a treatment for COVID-19 and has been given emergency use authorization by the US Food and Drug Administration.

The agreement allows the companies — Cipla Ltd., Ferozsons Laboratories, Hetero Labs Ltd., Jubilant Lifesciences, and Mylan — to manufacture and distribute the drug.

“Under the licensing agreements, the companies have a right to receive a technology transfer of the Gilead manufacturing process for Remdesivir to enable them to scale up production more quickly. The licensees also set their own prices for the generic product they produce,” stated a press release issued by the Gilead Sciences.

The company also said that the licenses are royalty-free until World Health Organization declares the end of the public health emergency or a vaccine is approved.

“We will be monitoring the clinical trials and regulatory approvals very closely and would be ready to launch the drug shortly after the required regulatory approvals. We also plan to produce the drug’s Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API) in-house helping its cost-effectiveness and consistent availability,” said Hari S. Bhartia, managing director of Jubilant Life Sciences Limited.

Low-income and lower-middle-income countries will be provided with the drug.

The emergency use authorization of the drug is based on available data from two global clinical trials by the US National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease and Gilead.

“At Cipla, it is our continuous endeavor to ensure that no patient is denied access to life-saving treatments. Our partnership with Gilead represents this unwavering commitment and is a significant step towards saving millions of lives impacted by the pandemic,” said Umang Vohra, chief executive officer of Cipla Limited.

Last week, Japan approved Remdesivir as a treatment for COVID-19, making it the country’s first officially authorized drug to tackle the coronavirus disease.

After emerging in China last December, the novel virus has spread to at least 187 countries and territories.

Globally, over 4.26 million people have been infected with the virus, while over 291,000 have died and 1.49 million have made a recovery, according to US-based Johns Hopkins University.

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