Merck & Co Inc has signed deals to sell over 6 million courses of its experimental COVID-19 pill molnupiravir to governments around the world as nations try to tame the pandemic. The treatment, which received its first regulatory approval globally in Britain, where it is planned to be marketed under the LAGEVRIO trademark, is not the only one in the game.
Last month U.S. peer Pfizer Inc halted early a trial of its antiviral drug Paxlovid after it proved to cut the risk of severe COVID-19 by 89%, outdoing the results seen with Merck's product.
While a review of both treatments is ongoing in the United States, a panel of expert advisers to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) narrowly voted on Tuesday to recommend the agency authorize Merck's antiviral pill.
In the European Union, Merck's treatment is still under review by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). However, faced with rising COVID-19 cases, on Nov. 19 the regulator issued advice on using the pill for adults ahead of providing any wider recommendation. On the same day, EMA said it started review of Pfizer's Paxlovid.
Among EU countries, Germany said on Nov. 19 it is in talks with Pfizer, Merck (known in Europe under the MSD name) and "all those who have promising medicines" on COVID-19 treatment. Belgium said on Wednesday it is in talks with Merck on to buy 10,000 doses of the drugmaker's COVID-19 pill, adding the country is "in favor of a European joint procurement."
Following the emergence of the Omicron variant, a Merck executive said on Tuesday its experimental drug should have similar effects against any coronavirus variant.
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