Merck Gains as Momentum From Potential Covid Drug Stays Intact

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Investing.com – Merck stock (NYSE:MRK) traded 2.8% higher in Monday’s premarket on the promise shown by its experimental drug molnupravir for treating Covid-19.

If approved, the drug could be the world’s first oral antiviral medicine for Covid. The stock had jumped 8.4% on Friday after Merck said trials showed it could halve the risks of hospitalization and death from the infection.

Merck plans to seek emergency use authorization in the U.S. “as soon as possible”.

The company said the drug demonstrated consistent efficacy across Gamma, Mu and Delta, the most infectious of the virus variants.

Merck already has contracts in India and elsewhere to provide raw materials for making the drug.

The company expects to produce 10 million courses of treatment by the end of 2021, with more doses expected to be produced in 2022. It will supply approximately 1.7 million courses to the U.S. government under an existing agreement, assuming all the approvals are in place.

The potential shown by the drug has raised hopes of quicker treatment of the disease that continues to plague the world two years after the first case was found in China. The greater ease of manufacturing, distributing and administering medicine in tablet form all suggest that it could significantly bolster the world fight against Covid-19, at a time when much of the developing world still lags rich countries badly in vaccination rates.

Shares of manufacturers of Covid vaccines, likely to be the most adversely impacted if the drug gets marketing rights, fell sharply on the Merck news Friday. They were extending losses on Monday.

BioNTech (NASDAQ:BNTX), Moderna and Novavax (NASDAQ:NVAX) traded 1.5%-3% in premarket trading. Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) and Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) fell 0.8% and 0.3%, respectively, reflecting the fact that sales of Covid vaccines account for a small part of their revenue.

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