Merck & Co Inc on Thursday said its experimental COVID-19 drug could bring in between $5 billion and $7 billion in sales through the end of next year, including up to $1 billion this year if the drug gains U.S. authorization in December.
Merck earlier this month reported data that showed its drug molnupiravir, developed with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, could halve the chances of dying or being hospitalized for those most at risk of developing severe COVID-19.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) outside advisers will meet in November to vote on the drug's authorization. If cleared by the FDA, it will become the first oral antiviral medication for COVID-19.
Merck expects between $500 million and $1 billion in sales of the drug this year, Chief Financial Officer Caroline Litchfield said. Profits from sales would be shared equally with Ridgeback, Litchfield told analysts on a post-earnings call.
The U.S. drugmaker in June agreed to provide 1.7 million doses of molnupiravir to the U.S. government for around $1.2 billion once it was cleared by regulators. Merck has also signed deals with many countries since its data was announced early this month.
Also on Thursday, Merck raised its full-year adjusted profit after strong demand for blockbuster cancer drug Keytruda.
Sales from Keytruda, which is on track to become the world's best-selling treatment by 2023, rose 22% in the third quarter and handily beat analysts' estimates.
Merck expects full-year adjusted profit to be between $5.65 and $5.70 per share, up from its prior expectations of $5.47 to $5.57. The forecasts did not include any potential contribution from molnupiravir.
Merck's shares rose 1.5% to $82.76 before the opening bell after the company posted a 55% rise in net income to $4.57 billion in the third quarter.
Excluding one-time items, Merck earned $1.75 per share, beating estimates of $1.55, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
(Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru and Michael Erman in New Jersey; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli and Mark Porter) ((Manas.Mishra@thomsonreuters.com; www.twitter.com/Manasmishra24)))