Merck & Co Inc (MRK.N) said on Wednesday the U.S. government has agreed to buy about 1.7 million courses of the company’s experimental COVID-19 treatment, molnupiravir, for about $1.2 billion, if it is authorized in the country.
Molnupiravir is an experimental antiviral therapy Merck is developing with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics for the treatment of COVID-19 patients who are not hospitalized.
The drug is currently being assessed in a late-stage trial for its potential to reduce the risk of hospitalization or death.
Merck said it expects to file for the emergency use authorization of molnupiravir in the second half of 2021 at the earliest, pending favorable results from the trial.
The drug is administered orally in capsule form every 12 hours for 5 days and a treatment course contains 10 doses in total.
Merck expects to have more than 10 million courses of therapy available by the end of this year and said it was in discussions with other countries interested in advance purchase agreements for molnupiravir.
Merck has decided to focus on its drugs for COVID-19 after two vaccines failed to generate desired immune responses, prompting it to abandon the program in January.
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