Nov. 9 (Reuters) – The US government will buy an additional $1 billion worth of the COVID-19 pill made by Merck & Co Inc (MRK.N) and partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, the companies said Tuesday.
The government agreed in June to buy 1.7 million courses of molnupiravir for $1.2 billion and is now exercising options to buy 1.4 million more.
That brings the total number of secured courses to 3.1 million and a value of $2.2 billion. Merck said the government has the right to purchase 2 million additional courses as part of the contract. read more
The drug has been closely watched since data last month showed that when given early in the illness, it could halve the risk of death or hospitalization for those most at risk of developing severe COVID-19. read more
“Molnupiravir, if authorized, will be one of several vaccines and drugs available to fight COVID-19 as part of our collective effort to end this pandemic,” said Frank Clyburn, president of Merck’s human health business.
With limited options to treat people with COVID-19, the U.S. government has also secured millions of doses of Pfizer Inc’s rival antiviral drug (PFE.N), which was shown last week to reduce the risk of hospitalization or death for adults with 89% reduced risk of serious illness. read more
Merck’s application to the US Food and Drug Administration will be considered by a panel of independent experts on November 30, after which the regulatory agency is expected to make a decision.
Britain last week became the first country in the world to phase out the use of molnupiravir. read more
Merck expects to produce 10 million courses of the treatment by the end of this year, of which at least 20 million will be produced by 2022.
Shares of the drugmaker rose nearly 1% to $83.41 in premarket trading.
Reporting by Manas Mishra and Leroy Leo in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva and Arun Koyyur
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