The company producing an experimental antiviral pill for Covid-19 treatment is accused of selling the drug to the US at 40 times the cost of its production, found a report.

Molnupiravir, manufactured by pharmaceutical company Merck, has entered into a contract with the US government to supply 1.7 million courses at a price of $700 per course. However, an analysis of drug pricing by Harvard School of Public Health and King’s College Hospital in London found that it takes about $17.74 to produce a five-day course.

The pill, hailed as a breakthrough in the treatment of coronavirus, was originally developed to treat influenza using government funds. The antiviral drug could halve the chances of dying or being hospitalised for those most at risk of contracting severe Covid-19.

The medicine is designed to introduce error in the genetic code of the virus itself and is the first oral antiviral medication for Covid-19.

Defense Threat Reduction Agency, a body under the Department of Defence, invested in a “broad-spectrum antiviral, leading to the discovery of molnupiravir through collaborative research” with Merck, Emory University, Ridgeback Biotherapeutics and National Institute of Health.

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