Merck announced that its clinical trials found that its pill to treat COVID-19 dramatically reduced the chances of dying if taken early
Positive clinical trial results for Merck & Co.’s experimental antiviral COVID-19 pill echoed through the health care sector on Friday, denting high-flying stocks of vaccine companies and makers of other coronavirus treatments. The share price of the drug maker soared.
Shares of Merck rose 12.3% and hit their highest level since February 2020, when data showed the company’s pill mollupiravir increased the risk of death or hospitalization for people at risk of contracting severe COVID-19. can halve the chances. Experts have described the news as potentially a major advance in the fight against COVID-19.
At the same time, shares of vaccine makers such as Moderna Inc., Pfizer Inc. and partner BioNTech SE were hit, with some analysts saying that the promise of an oral drug that can be taken at home could change public perception of the risks associated with it. . COVID-19.
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“We see slight perceived headwinds for vaccine stocks like mRNA (Modern) if the market thinks people will be less afraid of COVID-19 and less inclined to vaccinate than if there is a simple pill that can fight against COVID-19. May treat COVID-19,” Jefferies analyst Michael Yee said in a client note.
Shares of Moderna fell 13% in afternoon trading, while Pfizer, which is developing a COVID-19 pill of its own, fell 1.3%. US shares of BioNTech fell 11%.
For Moderna investors, Merck News presented an opportunity to lock in profits after an already surprising run. Shares of Moderna, which was added to the S&P 500 in mid-July, remain up nearly 220% in 2021 despite Friday’s decline. Even with Friday’s decline, BioNTech’s shares were still up nearly 200% for the year.
Sahak Manuelian, head of equity trading at Wedbush Securities, said Merck News Modern and BioNTech shares “have a big reason for people to take profits off the table”. “These moves can be accelerated upwards, which has driven them upwards.”
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Shares of other companies with a COVID-19 vaccine also fell, with AstraZeneca (AZN.L) falling 2% and Novavax 16%.
Companies with other COVID-19 therapies that are administered intravenously or via injection also traded lower, with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals down about 5% and Gilead Sciences Inc. down about 2%.
Healthcare was only one of 11 S&P 500 areas in negative territory in mid-day trading, falling 0.5%.
In a research note, Piper Sandler analyst Christopher Raymond said, “We see molnupiravir as a clear game changer with its oral format, which not only significantly impacts the treatment paradigm of COVID-19 but also has potential utility in a prevention setting.” .
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Merck has been conducting trials of late to see if its antiviral pill can prevent COVID-19 infection, after studies showed it could significantly reduce hospitalizations and deaths in those already infected. Is.
Merck, whose shares were up nearly 9%, is at the forefront of the race to develop the first oral antiviral drug for COVID-19. Rivals such as Pfizer and Swiss drugmaker Roche Holding AG (ROGS) have been testing their pills of late with Aetia Pharmaceuticals Inc. Shares of Atea were up 19%. read more
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Merck, which kicked off its own COVID-19 vaccine program, on Friday saw its shares fall nearly 4% for the year through Thursday, before moving into positive territory for 2021.
“Merck has been dead in the water for investors for the past few quarters,” said Kevin Gade, portfolio manager at Bahl & Gaynor, which owns Merck shares. “This shows that their R&D engine is not dead and they were the first to … what could be a multi-billion dollar opportunity.”