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.
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.
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.