Merck sold $ 952 million of its Covid-19 treatment pill molnupiravir in the fourth quarter and said Thursday it is on track to sell another $ 5 to $ 6 billion more this year.
Most of its sales so far have been concentrated in the US, UK and Japan, the company said in announcing earnings results, beating Wall Street’s revenue and profit forecasts. Merck delivered 1.4 million courses to the United States after the Food and Drug Administration after the agency approved the pill in December.
CEO Rob Davis said Merck is on track to meet its commitment in the coming days to deliver 3.1 million courses to the United States. The company will soon ship 4 million courses to 25 countries worldwide, Davis said. Merck shares the profits from cloud pies evenly with its partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics.
“We have shown that molnupiravir works against omicron, which is important against that variant,” Davis told CNBC’s Meg Tirrell on Thursday morning. “And of course we’ll have to see how this unfolds and what the initial recording is, but right now we feel we’ve got off to a good start,” he said.
Here’s how the company performed compared to what Wall Street expected, based on analysts’ average estimates compiled by Refinitiv:
- Adjusted EPS: $ 1.80 pr. share against expected $ 1.53 per share
- Income: $ 13.52 billion against $ 13.16 billion expected
Merck rose to a profit of $ 3.82 billion in the fourth quarter from a loss of $ 2.62 billion in the same quarter in 2020.
In clinical trials, molnupiravir reduced the risk of hospitalization or death in Covid patients by 30%, but reduced the risk of dying by 90%. Davis said the UK government is conducting a real-world study looking at the drug’s performance, and Merck is tracking the impact of molnupiravir as it is launched worldwide.
“Despite the fact that we are at least starting to see in the United States, the wave of omicron is still moving through, we are still facing over 2,000 deaths due to Covid-19 a day,” Davis said. “The fact that molnupiravir reduces the risk of death by 90%, we can have a meaningful impact on helping patients,” he said.
Merck’s sales of $ 13.52 billion in the fourth quarter of 2021 increased 24% over the same quarter in 2020, driven by its HPV vaccine Gardasil, which prevents cervical cancer, and its treatment Keytruda, which fights melanoma, lung cancer and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Sales of Keytruda increased by 15% over the same quarter last year to a total of $ 4.58 billion. Sales of Gardasil increased by 53% from the fourth quarter of 2020 to $ 1.53 billion. Davis said Gardasil has experienced tremendous growth in China, which has one of the highest burdens of HPV in the world.
Davis told CNBC that M&A remains an important part of Merck’s strategy, citing its acquisition of Acceleron last year as an example of the types of deals the company plans to pursue in the future. The $ 11.5 billion deal brought Acceleron’s drug sotatercept, which treats a cardiovascular disease called pulmonary arterial hypertension.
“I think there could be some opportunities, but it will take some time to see how it actually develops,” Davis said.