Merck’s COVID Pill Shows Lower Efficacy

Merck (NYSE:MRK) said on Friday updated data from the study of its experimental COVID-19 pill showed lower efficacy in reducing the risk of hospitalization and deaths than an earlier interim analysis, cutting them by 30% in the study.

The drugmaker released interim data in October showing a roughly 50% reduction in hospitalizations and deaths in 775 patients. The updated rate on Friday is based on data from over 1,400 patients.

Merck’s shares fell $3.47, or 4.2% in early Friday trading to $78.80, amid a fall in the broader markets.

The company said the data on the drug molnupiravir, developed with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, had been submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ahead of a meeting of its expert advisers on Tuesday.

A planned interim analysis of the data last month showed that 7.3% of those given molnupiravir twice a day for five days were hospitalized and none had died by 29 days after the treatment. That compared with a hospitalization rate of 14.1% for placebo patients.

In the updated data, 6.8% of those given molnupiravir were hospitalized and one person died, while the other placebo group had a hospitalization rate of 9.7%.

Merck and Ridgeback have conducted a rigorous development program for molnupiravir, and believe that molnupiravir has the potential to address a significant unmet medical need for an oral medicine for adults with COVID-19 who are at risk for progressing to severe COVID-19 and/or hospitalization.

"We look forward," concluded Friday’s news release, to working with the FDA and other agencies as they review our applications."