Merck & Co. is set to make billions off molnupiravir, a promising COVID-19 pill, which could change the pandemic, according to Business Insider, South Africa.
The company is expecting to reap billions in revenue while still making the drug affordable to the world.
Molnupiravir became the first COVID-19 pill to succeed in a late-stage study, which halved the risk of hospitalization and death.
Industry analysts expect the company to make about $22 billion in revenue from the drug through 2030. At the same time, the drug could play a key role in curbing the ongoing pandemic.
The company will have to work to make the drug accessible to most people across the world.
The US government is paying $712 per treatment course of molnupiravir, but Merck is allowing generic manufacturers to make the drug for lower-income markets, charging a fraction of that cost.
Merck has teamed up with eight generic drug companies, allowing all of them to sell the drug in more than 100 low- and middle-income countries.
The generic companies will compete on price. One report has said they are expected to charge about $12 to $15 per treatment course.
Paul Schaper, Executive Director, Global Pharmaceutical Public Policy at Merck, told Business Insider, “We’ve been planning to put this strategy in place from the very beginning.”
Some drug-pricing advocates have also applaud Merck’s strategy.
James Love, Director, Knowledge Ecology International, said, “Merck is among the better actors in the pandemic compared to other companies.”
In June, the federal government agreed to pay $1.2 billion in a supply deal for molnupiravir if the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves the drug.
So, the US is effectively paying about $712 per treatment course. Some experts said the price is too high, particularly given federal grant money that has been invested in the drug.
Dr. Aaron Kesselheim of Harvard Medical School said, “Unfortunately, in the US, we allow manufacturers to set whatever price they want, and as a result, we get situations like this.”
Dr. Dzintars Gotham of King’s College Hospital said, “It would be useful to know how much it costs Merck to produce the pills. That information can help countries negotiate fair prices.” Merck has declined to say how much it costs to make the drug.