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Merck’s COVID-19 Drug Molnupiravir to Transition from Free Distribution to Commercial Market: US Government Decision

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Merck & Co. headquarters in Silicon Valley
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Merck’s COVID-19 drug, molnupiravir, also known as Lagevrio, will no longer be distributed for free by the US government starting mid-November. The decision comes as the drug transitions from government distribution to the commercial marketplace.

Last year, molnupiravir generated global sales of $5.7 billion. However, it is projected to generate only around $1 billion in revenue for 2023. Since its authorization for use, the US government has distributed over 3.2 million courses of the drug, with 1.4 million courses already administered, according to Reuters.

In comparison, the US government has distributed 15.4 million courses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 drug, Paxlovid, which studies have shown to be more effective in combating the illness. Of the distributed courses, approximately 10 million have been administered.

A recent study revealed that Paxlovid is only 37% effective in high-risk patients for hospitalization or death from COVID-19, contrary to prior studies that indicated an 89% effectiveness rate. The study also found molnupiravir to be 41% effective.

Merck confirmed to Reuters that it would require an updated authorization from the FDA before it can commence commercial sales of molnupiravir. In the meantime, the government’s inventory of Paxlovid will be available for free at pharmacies until the product is made commercially available.

Molnupiravir was co-developed by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics.


  • What is molnupiravir?
  • How effective is molnupiravir in treating COVID-19?
  • What is the revenue projection for molnupiravir in 2023?
  • Is Paxlovid more effective than molnupiravir in combating COVID-19?
  • When will molnupiravir be commercially available?


The US government’s decision to stop distributing Merck’s COVID-19 drug, molnupiravir, for free marks a transition from government-sponsored distribution to the commercial marketplace. While molnupiravir had significant sales in 2020, the revenue projection for 2023 is considerably lower. As the government shifts its focus to Pfizer’s Paxlovid, recent studies have raised concerns about the effectiveness of both drugs. Merck will need updated authorization from the FDA before proceeding with commercial sales of molnupiravir.

Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute financial advice. Investment in pharmaceutical companies and COVID-19 drugs should be evaluated based on individual risk tolerance and thorough market analysis.

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