COVID-19 vaccine makers fall as Merck’s pill shines in trial

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Oct 1 (Businesshala) – Shares of Moderna Inc and Pfizer Inc rose late on Friday after study data showed a COVID-19 pill from Merck & Co increased hospitalization in patients at increased risk of serious illness Reduced chance of occurrence or death.

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Merck is leading the race to develop the first oral antiviral drug for COVID-19, while rivals such as Pfizer Inc. and Swiss pharmaceutical Roche Holding AG, and partner Atia Pharmaceuticals, are running late-stage trials of their own.

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Some Wall Street analysts said positive data from Merck and the promise of an oral drug to be taken at home could change public perception of the risks associated with COVID-19.

“If the market thinks people will be less afraid of COVID-19 and less willing to vaccinate, we see minor perceived headwinds for vaccine stocks like mRNA,” said Jefferies analyst Michael Yee. Said in the client note.

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Merck and partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics plan to seek US emergency use authorization for the pill, molnupirvir, as soon as possible.

Merck shares rose 9.76% after the development, while Moderna lost nearly 11% and Pfizer declined 2%. Novavax, Inovio Pharmaceuticals and Vaxart Inc, which are also developing vaccines for COVID-19, fell 6%-15%.

Analysts also said such oral treatment options could exploit a billion-dollar opportunity, as existing monoclonal antibody therapies from companies such as Eli Lilly and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. require inconvenient intravenous infusions.

“The preliminary modeling we’ve done suggests that mollupiravir could generate at least $10 billion in order flow by 2025,” said analyst Dena Grabosch at SVB Leerink. (Reporting by Manojna Maddipatla in Bengaluru; Editing by Uttaresh. V)

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