Merck Secures $1.2 Billion Government Contract for Experimental COVID-19 Treatment

June 10, 2021

The U.S. government will pay Merck an estimated $1.2 billion for 1.7 million courses of its experimental COVID-19 antiviral, molnupiravir, if the drug is authorized by the FDA.

The Biden administration made the announcement yesterday, saying the contract would be awarded through HHS and the Department of Defense.

Co-developed with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, molnupiravir is currently being evaluated in a global phase 3 study for reducing the risk of COVID-19-related hospitalization and death. The drug works by inducing genome copying errors to prevent the SAR-CoV-2 virus from replicating.

Results from the 1,850-participant trial are expected this fall and will be used to support the company’s request for FDA Emergency Use Authorization.

Merck said it expects to have more than 10 million treatment courses available by year’s end. The company also plans to seek emergency authorizations from other global regulators and is pursuing advanced purchase agreements with other countries.

In January, Merck discontinued development of two potential COVID-19 vaccines following disappointing immune responses in trial participants (DID, Jan. 26). ― Jason Scott