The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Merck’s Covid Treatment Drug:
Profit First

Nov 8, 2021

Merck plans to charge $712 for the five-day treatment of COVID-19 in the U.S. with the experimental drug it is currently commercializing. Considering that the production cost of pills for this treatment is less than $12 and the U.S. government paid for the research and development of this pill, Merck’s pricing is a total rip-off.

Merck, a pharmaceutical giant, announced early in October that this experimental COVID-19 pill, called molnupiravir, reduced hospitalizations and deaths by half in people recently infected with the coronavirus. All COVID-19 therapies now authorized in the U.S. require an IV or injection. So, this medicine, which is a simple pill, is a potentially huge advance in efforts to fight the pandemic.

Emory University researchers originally developed this COVID pill by getting $29 million from the U.S. government. A small Miami-based company, Ridgeback, licensed the medicine from Emory University in 2020 and two months later sold the worldwide rights of this pill to Merck. The only spending Merck did on developing this pill is related to its trial on about 750 human subjects.

Companies in India are planning to price the pill at less than $12 for a five-day course. Considering that these Indian companies also reap a handsome profit from this pill, the manufacturing cost of this pill for the treatment should be much less than $12. So, through the patents and its giant size, Merck will dominate this COVID treatment and derive staggering profits, estimated in tens of billions of dollars each year from the worldwide market.

So, Merck’s owners will get even richer. But, with the price of this pill so high, a lot of people won’t be able to afford it. This dire result is the actual “cost” of the so-called “free market” of capitalism.