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US Govt to buy $1bn Merck’s COVID-19 pill

Experimental COVID-19 treatment pill “molnupiravir” being developed by Merck & Co Inc and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics LP. Photo: Reuters

The United State Government is set to buy $1 billion worth of the COVID-19 pill produced by Merck & Co Inc and partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, the companies said.

Reuters reports that 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.

This brings the total secured courses to 3.1 million and worth $2.2 billion.

Merck says the government has the right to buy 2 million more courses as part of the contract.

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 hospitalised for those most at risk of developing severe COVID-19.

“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,” says President of Merck’s human health business, Frank Clyburn.

U.S government has also secured millions of doses of Pfizer Inc’s rival antiviral drug, which last week was shown to cut by 89% the chance of hospitalisation or death for adults at risk of severe disease.

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