Merck Sees Up To $1 Billion In Covid Antiviral Pill Sales—It Just Needs Regulatory Approval

Merck expects billions in global sales of its Covid-19 antiviral drug molnupiravir. Officials from the company Thursday said that they have tens of million of pills ready for use once regulators approve the drug. This comes as the world races to secure limited supplies.

Merck expects billions of dollars in sales for its Covid-19 antiviral. Getty Images

The Key Facts

According to Caroline Litchfield, chief financial officer, Merck expects to earn between $500 million and $1billion in worldwide revenue from molnupiravir if it is approved by regulators. Litchfield stated that the antiviral could generate between $5 billion to $7 billion in worldwide revenue by 2022, depending on whether it is approved. This would also include the $1 billion anticipated this year. Litchfield said profits would be split equally with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics in Miami, which was part of the Merck team to develop the drug. Robert Davis, Merck's chief executive, said Thursday that the company had 10 million pills in stock ready for when the drug is approved by regulators. According to Davis, the company will produce more than twice as many pills next year than it did last year. This is consistent with Merck's previous promises to increase production to meet growing demand.

What to Watch

At the end of November, the Food and Drug Administration will review safety and efficacy data for molnupiravir. It would be the first antiviral medication to treat Covid-19 if it is approved. Pfizer will also test an antiviral medication to prevent or treat Covid-19. Results are expected later in the year.

Important Background

Merck requested that U.S. regulators approve molnupiravir in an emergency situation in October. The FDA had recommended that the FDA endorse the practice of clinical trials, and Merck was not able to do so because the promising results led to clinical trials being halted prematurely. Merck stated that the trial data showed that molnupiravir can be administered to patients within five days after symptoms appear. This reduces the chance of death or hospitalization in high-risk populations. The approval of the pillof, which patients would need to take twice daily for five days, will close a gap in treatment options for Covid-19. There are few interventions that can help patients who have recently become symptomatic outside of hospitals. Treatments usually work to prevent infection or treat severe illnesses in hospitals.


Antiviral pills are cheaper than other methods of treating or preventing Covid-19 and they are easier to manufacture, distribute and administer. However, there is concern that poorer countries will once again be left waiting due to the global rush for supplies. Merck, which has pledged to increase production to meet demand, announced this week a licensing agreement to the UN-backed Medicines Patent Pool in order to improve access to the pill for poorer countries. This landmark agreement is in contradiction to the resistance of major vaccine manufacturers to share their technology. It would allow companies from 105 low- or middle-income countries sublicense the drug and make it royalty-free.

Big Number

1.7 Million. This is how many molnupiravir courses the U.S. will buy once the approval is granted. Each course costs $700 and the deal is worth approximately $1.2 billion.

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CEO of Merck says that if regulators approve, Merck will deploy millions of Covid antiviral tablets (CNBC).

Merck expects sales of COVID-19 drugs to reach $7 billion by 2022 (Reuters).

Merck Inks a Deal to Share Antiviral Covid Tablet With Poorer Countries (Forbes).

Mercks COVID Pill Atlantic: Timing is Everything

The COVID drug hunt reveals how antiviral pill Molnupiravir jumped ahead (Nature).

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