(Reuters) -Merck & Co Inc said on Wednesday that the US government agreed to purchase about 1.7 million courses of the company’s experimental COVID-19 treatment, molnupiravir, for about $ 1.2 billion, if is authorized in the country.
Molnupiravir is an experimental antiviral therapy that Merck is developing with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics for the treatment of COVID-19 patients who are not hospitalized.
The drug is currently being evaluated in a late-stage trial for its potential to reduce the risk of hospitalization or death.
Merck said it expects to apply for emergency use authorization for molnupiravir in the second half of 2021 at the earliest, pending favorable trial results.
The drug is administered orally in the form of capsules every 12 hours for 5 days, and a course of treatment contains 10 doses in total.
Merck expects to have more than 10 million courses of therapy available by the end of this year and said it was in discussions with other countries interested in pre-purchase agreements for molnupiravir.
Merck has decided to focus on its COVID-19 medications after two vaccines failed to elicit the desired immune responses, prompting it to leave the program in January.
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