Pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co Inc. expects that its COVID-19 drug, molnupiravir, to generate revenues worth around USD 7 billion in sales by the end of 2022. Following the announcement, Merck's shares hiked by around 4% to USD 84.88 in early trading.
Data on molnupiravir reportedly shows that the drug can potentially reduce the hospitalization rates by half for those at extreme risks of COVID-19, but only if given when early symptoms are detected.
Advisers of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are expected to meet in November this year to vote on the authentication of the drug. If approved by the FDA, the drug developed in collaboration with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics will go on to become the first-of-its-kind oral antiviral cure for COVID-19.
Merck CEO Robert Davis mentioned that the USD 5 billion to USD 7 billion estimations for the pill are based on potential agreements in regions where the company believes to reach its goal. If all goes well, Merck could also increase its forecast for 2022.
While vaccines are currently the primary weapons against COVID-19, this experimental pill by Merck could be a game-changer as other treatments are given as injections or infusions, mainly in a hospital setting.
This year, on the other hand, Merck claimed that it anticipates sales of the drug worth between USD 500 million and USD 1 billion this year. Profits obtained will be shared with Ridgeback equally.
The U.S. drugmaker has agreed to supply around 1.7 million doses of its COVID-19 antiviral drug to the U.S. government for around USD 1.2 billion, after its approval by regulators. Merck has also signed agreements with generic drug makers to manufacture the drug for low- and middle-income countries.
It expects to produce at least 10 million drug courses this year, with the number to double by 2022. The licensing deals for generic versions are not included in its production targets.
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