đź’Š The Covid pill

Tuesday, October 12, 2021 by Robinhood Snacks | Disclosures
Two days late for the one-day NFT convention [bymuratdeniz/E+ via Getty Images]

Two days late for the one-day NFT convention bymuratdeniz/E+ via Getty Images

Yesterday’s Market Moves
Dow Jones
34,496 (-0.72%)
S&P 500
4,361 (-0.69%)
Nasdaq
14,486 (-0.64%)
Bitcoin
$57,500 (5.14%)

Hey Snackers,

If your sauvignon tastes like Grey Poupon, it probably is: The mustard icon just debuted a condiment-infused wine called “La Moutarde Vin” — and it’s already sold out.

Stocks edged down to close the day, as investors stressed about inflation. Now all eyes are on earnings season, which kicks off this week with banks like Chase, Citi, and Morgan Stanley. Investors want to see if rising prices hit companies’ profits.

Pill

1. The Covid pill: Merck seeks FDA approval for its first-of-a-kind drug — it could be big

Hard to swallow... because “molnupiravir” is a mouthful. American pharma giant Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics just filed for FDA approval of molnupiravir — aka the Covid pill. If approved, it would be the first swallowable antiviral Covid drug. So far, Gilead’s remdesivir is the only FDA-approved antiviral, but it's just for hospital patients and has to be injected. Merck said its pill reduced hospitalizations and deaths by half in high-risk people with Covid.

  • Only people with Covid can take the treatment (eight pills/day for five days). The goal: Prevent cases from leading to hospitalizations, which carry a dangerous health toll, and cost an average of $20K per stay.
  • We're still waiting on final results from Merck's big study, but the FDA could clear the pill in the next few weeks.

Winter is coming... and it could be chilly. Sheltering indoors could lead to another Covid surge. Merck is pushing to get this pill out: It's already started production and plans to manufacture 10M treatment courses this year. Oh, and it has a $1.2B contract to provide 1.7M courses to the US gov't, at $712 for each five-day course — or 40X what it reportedly costs to produce.

THE TAKEAWAY

Pharma’s Covid story is far from over... And pills could play a big role, both for those who aren’t vaxxed, and for those who can't. While 80% of US adults are vaccinated, more than half of the world's population hasn't gotten a shot, and only 35% is fully vaxxed. Since unvaccinated people are 11X more likely to die from Covid, the pill could lower death rates in countries with poor vaccine access — if Merck makes it affordable. Merck says it plans to price its pill based on the wealth of the country buying it.

Rep

Scratch the fuzzy pink neck pillow... and forget the Biscoff cookies. Southwest Airlines cancelled 2K+ flights between Saturday and Monday, causing headaches from Miami to Denver. SW blamed the cancellation-palooza on air-traffic issues and bad weather. Awkward, since the FAA reported no air-traffic-control issues, and angry customers posted pics of baby-blue skies. SW shares sank as much as 3% yesterday.

The rumors were flying… unlike Southwest’s planes. Critics speculated that the cancellations stemmed from pilots’ massive “sick-in” protest of SW’s vaccine mandate. But SW — and the pilots’ union — said the cancellations weren’t part of a protest. Instead, they may have stemmed from Southwest’s opportunistic pandemic strategy:

  • Unpredictable moves: While American Airlines and Delta cut flights in smaller cities to save cash mid-pandemic, Southwest expanded to 18 new destinations to try to grab market share.
  • Predictable delays: As flight demand ramped up quickly, SW struggled to staff its new flights. This summer, one-third of SW flights were late — much more compared to those of its rivals.
  • In context: 30% of Southwest flights were cancelled on Sunday. The next most affected airline, American, cancelled just 2% of its flights.
THE TAKEAWAY

It’s hard to refund a canceled rep… The financial cost of cancellations is bad for airlines, but the reputation cost is worse. Southwest soared to success with low prices and an aggressive expansion strategy. But after this PR nightmare, thousands of travelers may avoid it at a time when travel is rebounding. Domestic travel is nearly back to pre-pandemic levels, and is expected to keep growing. But Southwest could miss out.

What else we’re Snackin’

  • Boost: A key FDA panel is meeting this week to debate the safety and effectiveness of Moderna’s and J&J's booster shots.
  • Honeycomb: Netflix is teaming up with Walmart to create a digital storefront for merch from "Squid Game" and other original hit shows.
  • Fortnite: Apple is appealing a judge's decision that it can no longer bar app developers (cough, Epic Games) from using non-Apple payment systems.
  • 5G: US sanctions on Huawei have caused the Chinese telecom giant to lose its lead in the global smartphone market.
  • Royal: Mental-health coaching startup BetterUp is now worth $4.7B, nearly triple what it was worth eight months ago when it hired Prince Harry.
  • Clickbait: Facebook says it’s going for “more friends, less politics” in people’s feeds, after a high-level whistleblower accused it of putting profits over mental health.

Snacks Daily Podcast

A Nobel Prize winner turned a central theory of economics on its head — with help from US fast-food workers.

Tune in to hear why brilliant experiments aren’t always planned — they’re sometimes discovered.

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Snack Fact of the Day

Starting and registering a new business in the US takes an average of just four days.

Tuesday

  • Earnings expected from Fastenal

Authors of this Snacks own shares of: Apple, Netflix, Delta, and Moderna

ID: 1871746