Storm brews over 46x price markup of Merck’s Thor-inspired COVID pill

Merck & Co. headquarters in San Francisco, California.

Enlarge / Merck & Co. headquarters in San Francisco, California. (credit: Getty | Sundry Photography)

A storm is brewing over the pricing and licensing of Merck’s antiviral pill molnupiravir, which the pharmaceutical giant says can halve the risk of hospitalization and death in high-risk COVID-19 patients.

Merck’s advance purchase agreement with the US government pegs the price of a five-day treatment at about $700. But an independent analysis by public health researchers at Harvard estimated that a sustainable generic price—with a 10 percent profit margin built in—would be just $20 per treatment. Further, rival generic manufacturers in India are already expected to offer the drug at $15 or less for a treatment once it’s authorized for use.

Given that, the $700 price tag in the US represents a 46-fold markup of the drug, which is named after Thor’s hammer, Mjölnir.

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