Merck is partnering with a pharmaceutical company in Ontario to make its oral COVID-19 antiviral pill in Canada.

Merck, the maker of molnupiravir — which is still under Health Canada review — announced Monday it has reached an agreement with Thermo Fisher Scientific in Whitby to manufacturer its treatment.

Marwan Akar, president and managing director with Merck Canada Inc., told reporters at a news conference that Thermo Fisher will make molnupiravir for distribution in Canada, the United Kingdom, as well as for European, Asian Pacific and Latin American countries pending approvals in those countries.

“Make no mistake, vaccines remain our primary and first line of defense, but we need new tools in the toolbox, and antivirals provide just that,” Akar said.

“This is another way to combat this pandemic, help save lives, accelerate patient recovery and avoid hospitalizations.”

Merck’s announcement comes on the heels of the federal government’s recent agreement with the company to purchase 500,000 courses of its molnupiravir treatment, with an option to add 500,000 more pending approval.

The federal government has also announced a deal with Pfizer to purchase one million courses of its oral antiviral treatment, PF-07321332, pending Health Canada approval.

“As soon as these drugs are authorized for use, the government will work on getting them to provinces and territories as quickly as possible so that health-care providers can help Canadians who need them most,” Filomena Tassi, Canada’s minister of public services and procurement, said Friday.

Merck’s pill is still under review by Health Canada as the company continues its rolling submission.

Recently, Merck shared data suggesting its drug was significantly less effective than previously thought, reducing hospitalizations and deaths in high-risk individuals by around 30 per cent.

The treatment has received approval in the United Kingdom.

Cardiologist and epidemiologist Dr. Christopher Labos previously told Global News that antiviral pills could potentially limit the strain of COVID-19 on Canada’s health-care system by reducing the effects of the virus, but they don’t “prevent the problem.”

“It just treats the problem,” he said. “In terms of preventing outbreaks, vaccines are clearly the better course of action.”

Merck to make its COVID-19 antiviral pill in Canada, company announces

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