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Merck (MRK) Begins Molnupiravir Study for COVID Prevention

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Merck MRK announced that it has initiated a pivotal phase III MOVe-AHEAD study to evaluate molnupiravir, its investigational oral antiviral, for the prevention of COVID-19. The antiviral is being co-developed in collaboration with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics.

The study will enroll approximately 1,332 participants who are at least 18 years old and are living in the same household as someone having tested positive for COVID-19 infection with symptoms.

Shares of Merck have declined 6.9% so far this year against the industry’s 15.1% rally.

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The MOVe-AHEAD study will evaluate the efficacy and safety of the candidate in comparison with placebo. The participants will be randomized into two groups to receive either molnupiravir (800 mg) or placebo orally every 12 hours for five days. Primary endpoints of this study include percentage of participants with COVID-19 through day 14, percentage of participants with an adverse event and percentage of participants who discontinued study intervention due to an adverse event.

Please note that molnupiravir is a potent ribonucleoside analog that inhibits the replication of multiple RNA viruses including COVID-19. The candidate is also being evaluated in the phase III MOVe-OUT study for the treatment of non-hospitalized patients with confirmed mild to moderate COVID-19. The company anticipates data from this study in second-half 2021.

Gilead’s GILD Veklury (remdesivir) is an FDA approved antiviral for COVID-19, administered intravenously.

Meanwhile, Pfizer PFE is also developing an antiviral candidate for COVID-19, which is currently being evaluated in a phase II/III study.

Previously, Merck was also conducting a phase II/III MOVe-IN study, which evaluated molnupiravir in hospitalized patients with COVID-19. In April, the company decided to discontinue this study as it concluded that molnupiravir was unlikely to demonstrate a clinical benefit in hospitalized patients.

Merck & Co., Inc. Price

Merck & Co., Inc. Price
Merck & Co., Inc. Price

Merck & Co., Inc. price | Merck & Co., Inc. Quote

Zacks Rank & Stock to Consider

Merck presently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). A better-ranked stock in the biotech sector is Regeneron Pharmaceuticals REGN, which currently sports a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

Regeneron’s earnings per share estimates for 2021 have increased from $49.96 to $54.15 in the past 30 days. The same for 2022 has risen from $40.91 to $44.11 over the same period. The stock has rallied 41% in the year so far.


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