news from MRK and PFE about therapeutics. We desperately need results from Prepare It 2. If successful this could be our ticket to ride!
Merck and Pfizer Are Testing Antiviral Pills. The Covid Battle Is Moving Beyond Vaccines. -- Barrons.com
DOW JONES & COMPANY, INC. 10:27 AM ET 9/1/2021
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MRK 76.3down +0.01 (+0.0131%)
QUOTES AS OF 10:27:57 AM ET 09/01/2021
Merck (MRK) and Pfizer both announced the start of trials to test oral antiviral medications targeting Covid-19 on Wednesday, highlighting a growing interest in the market for therapeutics for the coronavirus.
Pfizer's trial is a Phase 2/3 study of an oral antiviral known as PF-07321332 in symptomatic adult Covid-19 patients who aren't hospitalized and aren't at risk of progressing to severe illness. The trial is in addition to one the company began in July, testing the same drug in nonhospitalized patients who are at risk of progressing to severe illness.
Merck (MRK) , meanwhile, along with its partner the private company Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, announced the start of a Phase 3 trial of its oral antiviral molnupiravir as a post-exposure prophylaxis for patients who live in the same household as a person with symptomatic Covid-19.
The wave of Covid-19 therapeutic trials comes amid a growing consensus that the virus that causes Covid-19 isn't going away, and that the disease will continue to pose some level of threat for the foreseeable future. That could create a substantial market for Covid-19 therapeutics, which have so far received little attention in comparison to the vaccines.
Therapeutics developed so far to treat and prevent Covid-19 are either not very effective, like Gilead's (GILD) Veklury, or inconvenient, like the infused monoclonal antibody therapies from Regeneron (REGN) and others. In mid- August, analysts at Jefferies predicted that an effective and convenient Covid-19 therapeutic could hit peak sales of more than $10 billion a year.
Pfizer shares were down 0.8% in early trading on Wednesday, while Merck(MRK) stock was flat. The S&P 500 had gained 0.2% . Merck(MRK) is down 2.1% this year, while Pfizer is up 24.1%.
Merck's (MRK) trial of molnupiravir as a post-exposure prophylaxis will seek to enroll around 1,330 people, split between those who will receive a placebo and a group that will get a five-day course of molnupiravir. The company is also testing the drug in a separate trial as a treatment for nonhospitalized patients who have at least one risk factor associated with poor disease outcomes.
"As the pandemic continues to evolve and surges are being reported in many places around the world, it is important that we investigate new ways to protect individuals exposed to the virus from becoming infected with symptomatic disease," said Dr. Nick Kartsonis, a senior vice president at Merck Research Laboratories, in a statement.
Merck (MRK) said in early June that it had reached a deal to sell 1.7 million treatment courses of molnupiravir for $1.2 billion to the U.S. government, contingent on the drug receiving an emergency-use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The company says it expects to have 10 million courses of the drug manufactured by the end of the year.
In April, Merck(MRK) said that data from an early trial of molnupiravir suggested that the drug was unlikely to benefit hospitalized patients. It canceled a planned Phase 3 trial of the drug in hospitalized patients.
Pfizer's newly-begun trial, meanwhile, will test its antiviral in 1,140 participants, who will receive either a placebo or a five-day course of PF-07321332, also known as ritonavir. The trial targets patients who are at low risk of severe illness, while the separate trial begun in July targets patients who are at high risk of severe illness.
"Success against #COVID19 will likely require both vaccines & treatments, " the company's CEO, Albert Bourla, wrote in a tweet early Wednesday.
Write to Josh Nathan-Kazis at firstname.lastname@example.org