EU drug regulators to discuss Merck COVID-19 antiviral pill next week

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European Union drug regulators said they will discuss Merck & Co.’s antiviral pill next week amid a report that the drug faces potential rejection.

A panel of the European Medicines Agency will consider the drug’s effectiveness at the meeting, Marco Cavaleri, the regulator’s head of biological health threats and vaccines strategy, said at a briefing on Thursday. He declined to comment on the robustness of the evidence to back the pill.

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The US drugmaker has been developing molnupiravir with partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics LP.

The pill is only about 30 percent effective at preventing COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations among high-risk patients, compared with about 90 percent efficacy for Pfizer Inc.’s Paxlovid, studies have shown.

The Financial Times reported Wednesday that the antiviral is unlikely to get EMA approval, citing people it didn’t identify familiar with the situation.

Merck on February 3 trimmed the upper end of its 2022 forecast of molnupiravir sales to $6 billion, down from its earlier prediction that the drug might log up to $7 billion by yearend.

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