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US government buys Merck’s antiviral COVID-19 pill, the company’s additional 1.4 million courses announced Tuesday, the country’s stockpile nearly doubled as countries around the world raced to claim limited supplies of the drug.

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The US will spend about $1 billion on additional courses of mollupiravir, Merck said, conditional on the oral antivirals approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The purchase brings the country’s total to 3.1 million drug courses, developed by Merck with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, enhance 1.7 million course agreements in June.

Merck said the US has the capacity to purchase two million more courses of the drug under contract.

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