Price for experimental COVID-19 treatment raises concerns

A five-day course of medication that has shown promise treating COVID-19 is estimated to cost $17.74 to produce, but pharmaceutical firm Merck plans to charge the U.S. government $712, according to news reports.

A recent study found that the drug, molnupiravir, reduced the risk of hospitalization among study participants with moderate or mild illness by half.

The price discrepancy was detailed in an October 1, 2021 report led by researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and King’s College Hospital. Melissa Barber, a doctoral candidate in Harvard Chan School’s Department of Global Health and Population who co-authored the report, said the steep price of the drug—while not as extreme as some other medications—could limit access to it.

“If you can’t afford medicine because it’s 1,000 times more than you can afford, or because it’s 100 times more than you can afford, it doesn’t matter,” Barber said in an October 5, 2021 article in The Intercept. “Those are both bad.”

Read The Intercept article: Merck Sells Federally Financed Covid Pill to U.S. for 40 Times What It Costs to Make

Read the report: Estimated cost-based generic prices for molnupiravir for the treatment of COVID-19 infection