UK Buys $340 Million Worth of New COVID Pills from Merck, Becomes First Country to Approve Costly Drug

The United Kingdom has become the first country to authorize the new expensive COVID-19 treatment pills from Merck, ordering $340 million worth of courses of molnupiravir.

On Wednesday, the UK government’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the British equivalent of the FDA, declared that molnupiravir, sold by Merck as Lagevrio in the UK, was “safe and effective and reducing the risk of hospitalization and death in people with mild to moderate COVID-19.”

Molnupiravir is the first designed oral treatment specifically for COVID-19, and has been designed to “introduce errors into the genetic code of the coronavirus.” The MHRA recommendations noted that it should be used by anyone with those mild to moderate symptoms, and at least one risk factor for developing a more severe version of the illness, such as obesity, age, and diabetes, and should be taken within five days of the onset of those symptoms.

This makes the UK the first country to license the new pill from Merck, with Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid declaring it a “historic” move from the government. “This will be a gamechanger for the most vulnerable and the immunosuppressed, who will soon be able to receive the ground-breaking treatment.” Javid declared that the government was “working at pace… to deploy molnupiravir to patients through a national study as soon as possible.”

The British government in October had secured 480,000 courses of the drug, which was sold to the Biden administration at $712 a course, nearly a 3913.53% increase from the cost of production, meaning it is likely the British government spent over $340 million on the pills, compared to the US government’s spend of over $2.4 billion. Merck claimed that the production of the pill would generate up to $7 billion in revenue by the end of next year.

Molnupiravir is currently under review with the FDA after asking them for an emergency authorization for its use. An FDA panel is expected to convene later this month to discuss the pill.

Pfizer announced in September that they were also developing an oral antiviral pill for COVID-19, and like Merck, had already begun production before all clinical trials have been complete.

Despite the Big Pharma companies declaring that their pills are effective therapeutics for the virus with a 98%-plus recovery rate, the companies and governments are still arguing that vaccines must also still be taken across all populations, and governments are using vaccine passports and mandates to lock resisters out of jobs and public spaces. (READ MORE: Biden Vaccine Mandate Starts Jan 4, Workers Must Get Vax Or Be Banned From Corporate Employment Indefinitely)

The UK government claimed the pill was simply another “addition to the armory” against the disease, with Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla arguing that “success against COVID-19 will likely require both vaccines & treatments.”