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Merck’s game changing oral Covid-19 drug shakes up biotech sector
Shares in Covid-19 vaccine makers Moderna and BioNTech lost around a quarter of their market value in the first two trading days of October after pharmaceutical company Merck released positive data for its oral Covid-19 tablet known as molnupiravir.
The tablet, taken twice daily over a five-day course, reduced the risk of hospitalisation by 50% in patients with mild-to-moderate cases of Covid-19.
Merck and partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics said they intend to apply for emergency use which means the drug could be approved for use in high-risk patients within weeks.
Scott Gottlieb, former head of the US Food and Drug Agency, said the results of the trial were ‘phenomenal’ and could prove to be a game changer.
Assuming the results hold-up to peer review and safety standards, molnupiravir will be the first Covid-19 drug that can be purchased over the counter by adults who are symptomatic.
The US government has procured 1.7 million doses of the experimental drug at a cost of $1.2 billion or $705 per course. This seems quite steep compared with the estimated $20 to $30 per dose for current vaccines on the market.