Moderna, BioNTech, Pfizer Fall on Merck Covid-19 Pill News

By Geoffrey Smith — Shares in the makers of Covid-19 vaccines all fell sharply in premarket trading on Friday on expectations that Merck’s experimental pill for treating the disease could radically undercut future demand for their drugs. 

By (8:45 AM ET 1345 GMT), Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA) stock was down 4.9%, while BioNTech stock was down 5.3% and Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) stock was down 1.9%. Pfizer has traditionally been the least price-sensitive to vaccine news because it has many other revenue sources, whereas the other two are, for the present at least, pure plays on Covid-19 treatments. 

Merck (NYSE:MRK) had said earlier that an early-stage trial of its experimental pill had led to clear reductions in hospitalizations among the sample group, all of whom had taken it after developing moderate symptoms of Covid-19. 

The study was stopped early, as is often the case when an experimental drug shows signs of efficacy.

Scientists have searched feverishly for a Covid-19 remedy that can be manufactured, distributed and administered at massive scale without arousing the suspicions and mistrust that often accompany new vaccines. Such a pill could transform the vaccination status of many poorer countries, where Covid-19 is still spreading more or less unimpeded due to the lack of vaccines in the developing world. 

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