The Covid-19 treatment molnupiravir was developed using funding from the National Institute of Health and the Department of Defense. A five-day course of molnupiravir, the new medicine being hailed as a “huge advance” in the treatment of Covid-19 costs $17.74 to produce according to a report issued last week by drug pricing experts at the Harvard School of Public Health and King’s College in London. Merck is charging the US Government $712 for the same amount of medicine, or 40 times the price.
In addition to having huge implications for health, the pill could bring staggering profits to both Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics. A small Miami-base company, Ridgeback licensed the medicine from Emory University in 2020 and two months later sold the worldwide rights to the drug to Merck for an undisclosed sum.
The Defense Threat Reduction Agency, a division of the Department of Defense, provided more than $10 million of funding in 1013 and 2015 to Emory University, as research done by the nonprofit Knowledge Ecology International has revealed. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, also provided Emory with more than $19 million in additional grants.
Only Merck and Ridgeback will reap the profits from the new antiviral, which according to Quartz could bring in as much as $7 billion by the end of this year.
We are the meal.