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A little more than a month after receiving FDA authorization, Merck has delivered 1.4 million courses of its COVID-19 antiviral pill in the United States and expects to deliver its total commitment of 3.1 million treatment courses soon, company CEO Rob Davis said on CNBC.
Merck has also shipped 4 million courses of the pill, molnupiravir, to 25 nations across the world, he said.
“We’ve shown that molnupiravir works against Omicron, which is important against that variant,” Davis said Thursday morning. “And obviously we’ll have to see how this plays out and what is the initial uptake, but right now we feel we’re off to a good start.”
The FDA granted emergency use authorization in late December to two antivirals for people who contract COVID: Merck’s molnupiravir and Paxlovid, which is produced by Pfizer.
The drugs are designed for people with mild or moderate COVID who are more likely to become seriously ill — mainly people 65 and older or people who have chronic illnesses such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, obesity, or compromised immune systems.
Both antivirals require a five-day course of treatment. Merck’s is for adults ages 18 and older, and Pfizer’s for anyone age 12 and up.
In clinical trials, molnupiravir reduced the risk of hospitalization or death in Covid patients by 30% but slashed the risk of dying by 90%, Davis said.
“The fact that molnupiravir does reduce the risk of death by 90%, we could have a meaningful impact in helping patients,” he said.
Davis told CNBC that Merck sold $952 million in molnupiravir pills in the fourth quarter and is on track to rack up an extra $5 billion to $6 billion in sales in 2022.
Last week, Merck said laboratory studies showed molnupiravir was active against the Omicron variant. In December, Pfizer said preliminary lab studies also suggest the pill will hold up against the Omicron variant.
CNBC: “Merck expects to sell $5 billion to $6 billion of its new Covid treatment pill in 2022.”
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: “Biden Administration announces U.S. government procurement of Merck’s investigational antiviral medicine for COVID-19 treatment.”
U.S. News & World Report: “U.S. Government to Buy $1 Billion More Worth of Merck’s COVID-19 Pill.”
Merck: “Merck and Ridgeback’s Molnupiravir, an Investigational Oral Antiviral COVID-19 Medicine, Demonstrated Activity Against Omicron Variant in In Vitro Studies.”
National Institutes of Health: “The COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines Panel’s Statement on Therapies for High-Risk, Nonhospitalized Patients With Mild to Moderate COVID-19.”
Pfizer: “Pfizer Announces Additional Phase 2/3 Study Results Confirming Robust Efficacy of Novel COVID-19 Oral Antiviral Treatment Candidate in Reducing Risk of Hospitalization or Death.”