Thursday was a rough day for Moderna shares after the company released revenue figures and FY guidance that deeply disappointed Wall Street expectations (potentially destroying the reputation of financier Steve Weiss, arguably Moderna's biggest promoter on Wall Street, in the process). But on Friday, Pfizer - Moderna's biggest rival - rubbed Moderna's nose in it by announcing a revolutionary new oral COVID antiviral similar to the Merck 'miracle pill' that won approval from UK regulators yesterday.
The news sent Pfizer's stock surging, while Moderna and Merck shares tumbled, during premarket trade. Pfizer shares were trading up 11%+:
The key takeaway from the Pfizer announcement is this: Pfizer said studies showed its COVID-19 pill reduced hospitalizations and deaths in high-risk patients by 89%. That's even higher than the 50% reduction in hospitalizations and deaths shown by the Merck pill. Again, like Merck, Pfizer said that it was no longer taking new patients in a clinical trial of the treatment "due to the overwhelming efficacy" of the drug, which it now plans to submit its findings to the FDA for emergency authorization (just like Merck is doing). Yesterday, Merck won approval for its new COVID antiviral, molnupiravir, from regulators in the UK, and it's pushing to wrack up as many EUAs as possible from regulators from all over.
Pfizer is already planning to seek approval emergency approval from the US government because, according to the numbers, its drug is even more effective than molnuiravir. According to the headline numbers, Pfizer's new antiviral is even more effective than the rival pill from Merck. Pfizer’s pill, which will be sold under the brand name Paxlovid, cut the risk of hospitalization or death by 89% when taken within three days after symptoms emerge (the number for Merck's drug was it needed to be taken within 5 days of infection).
“The results are really beyond our wildest dreams,” said Annaliesa Anderson, a Pfizer executive who led the drug’s development. She expressed hope that Paxlovid “can have a big impact on helping all our lives go back to normal again and seeing the end of the pandemic.”
It's expected the new drug will be made available in the US at least but in limited quantities at first.
Criticisms have also been made about the cost of molnupiravir, and Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla already affirmed on CNBC that a course of the drug will cost insurers or customers around $700 (though the firm says it intends to sell the drug at a "discounted" prices to "poorer countries".
Per the NYT:
The U.S. government has been in negotiations with Pfizer for enough pills for 1.7 million courses of treatment, with an additional option for 3.3 million, according to a senior administration official. That is about the same quantity that the United States has ordered from Merck. The government expects to pay about $700 per treatment course for both drugs, the official said.
Both the Pfizer and Merck pills are both geared toward patients regarded as high-risk, including those above the age of 60 or with conditions like obesity that make them more susceptible to severe consequences from COVID.
But while experts again touted the drug's safety profile, several scientists have spoken out about potential safety risks tied to molnupiravir, the Merck drug.
Another important question: what does this mean now for President Biden's increasingly coercive vaccine mandate?