U.S. government to buy $1 billion more worth of Mercks COVID-19 pill – Reuters

An experimental COVID-19 treatment pill called molnupiravir being developed by Merck & Co Inc and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics LP, is seen in this undated handout photo released by Merck & Co Inc and obtained by Reuters May 17, 2021. Merck & Co Inc/Handout via REUTERS

Nov 9 (Reuters) – The U.S. government will buy another $1 billion worth of the COVID-19 pill made by Merck & Co Inc (MRK.N) and partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, the companies said on Tuesday.

The government in June agreed 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 secured courses to 3.1 million and worth $2.2 billion. Merck said the government has the right to buy 2 million more 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 chances of dying or being hospitalized for those most at risk of developing severe COVID-19. read more

“Molnupiravir, if authorized, will be among the vaccines and medicines available to fight COVID-19 as part of our collective efforts to bring this pandemic to an end,” 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 (PFE.N) rival antiviral drug, which last week was shown to cut by 89% the chance of hospitalization or death for adults at risk of severe disease. read more

Merck’s application with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will be taken up by a panel of independent experts on Nov. 30, following which the regulator is expected to make a decision.

Britain last week became the first country in the world to clear the use of molnupiravir. read more

Merck expects to produce 10 million courses of the treatment by the end of this year, with at least 20 million set to be manufactured in 2022.

The drugmaker’s shares 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

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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