Health

Merck predicts billions in COVID-19 drug sales

Merck pulled out of the race to develop vaccines against COVID-19 earlier this year, but could become a leader in treatment in 2022.

The manufacturer’s potential antiviral drug, molnupiravir, could generate $ 5 billion to $ 7 billion in sales over the next year, company executives told analysts Thursday morning. This could include up to $ 1 billion this year if regulators allow it in December.

The company has requested approval in both the US and Europe for what will be the first pill to treat COVID-19. All other FDA-supported treatments require intravenous or injection.

“The need for additional treatment options remains a key factor in the fight against COVID-19.
a pandemic, ”Dr. Ding Li, president of Merck Research Laboratories, told analysts during a call Thursday to discuss third-quarter results.

The FDA said a group of external experts will meet late next month to review treatment for adults with mild to moderate COVID-19 who are at risk of severe illness or hospitalization.

Earlier this month, Merck reported that in testing, the pill has halved the number of hospitalizations and deaths among patients with early symptoms of COVID-19.

Lee said the treatments that Merck developed with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics have consistently been effective against several variants of the virus, including the now dominant delta version.

Merck is also studying molnupiravir to see if it can be used to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in households after someone has been exposed to the virus. The company expects the results of this study next spring.

In the third quarter, Merck’s cancer blockbuster Keytruda and the Gardasil vaccine significantly exceeded Wall Street’s third-quarter expectations, even as COVID-19 reduced demand for another vaccine.

Keytruda’s revenue jumped 22% to $ 4.5 billion, while sales of the Gardasil vaccine against the cancer-causing human papillomavirus rose 68%.

But sales of Merck’s pneumonia vaccine, Pneumovax 23, fell 26%, mainly because people in the United States opted for the COVID-19 prophylactic vaccine.

Overall, Merck reported adjusted earnings of $ 1.75 per share and net income for the quarter jumped 55% to $ 4.57 billion.

According to FactSet, analysts were expecting an average EPS of $ 1.55 per share on revenue of $ 12.32 billion.

Merck also said Thursday that it had raised and tightened its forecast for 2021. Adjusted earnings for the year are now expected to be $ 5.65 to $ 5.70 per share on revenues of $ 47.4 billion to $ 47.9 billion. Possible treatment for COVID-19 was not included in the prognosis.

Analysts expect earnings of $ 5.64 a share on revenue of about $ 47.68 billion.

Merck said global health systems have largely adapted to the ongoing pandemic, which was still weighing on sales earlier this year as people delayed visits to both doctors and veterinarians.

Merck manufactures medicines for both humans and animals. The company expects COVID-19 revenue to be less than 3% in 2021.

Merck & Co. Inc., based in Kenilworth, New Jersey, jumped nearly 5% on Thursday to $ 85.40 on the back of modest gains in overall indexes.


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