FDA Could OK Covid Pills This Week — But Pfizer, Merck Stocks Fall

The Food and Drug Administration could authorize Covid pills from Pfizer (PFE) and Merck (MRK) this week, according to a Tuesday report. But Pfizer stock toppled while Merck shares also fell.


A decision could come as early as Wednesday, people familiar with the matter reportedly told Bloomberg. The authorization of pills called Paxlovid and molnupiravir would be a milestone in the fight against Covid, arriving roughly a year after the first vaccines were authorized.

These pills work differently to prevent the Covid-causing virus from replicating. But the Pfizer drug, Paxlovid, worked slightly better in clinical testing of people infected with Covid.

Still, in midday trading on the stock market today, Pfizer stock tumbled 4.6% near 58.20. The fall follows bullish news for Moderna (MRNA) on Monday. Moderna rivals Pfizer on the vaccine side. Its Covid booster led to a strong increase in virus-blocking antibodies. Merck stock also dipped Tuesday.

Pfizer Stock: FDA Mulls Covid Pills

Pfizer’s regimen contains two pills — one that blocks a viral protease and one that slows down how fast the body metabolizes the medicine. A protease is an enzyme the virus needs to replicate.

Merck’s Ridgeback Biotherapeutics-partnered molnupiravir is a single pill that causes errors in the RNA of the virus. Eventually, the virus become too riddled with errors to replicate.

Both Pfizer and Merck tested their pills in unvaccinated patients with a high risk of severe Covid. Pfizer’s reduced the risk of hospitalization by 89% when patients began treatment within three days of the first symptoms appearing. Merck’s lowered the risk by 30% for patients who began treatment within five days of symptoms appearing.

None of the Paxlovid recipients died, but one of the molnupiravir patients did.

Molnupiravir also carries a potential cancer risk and the potential to cause birth defects, simply due to its mechanism — inserting errors in viral RNA.

Shares At A Fresh High

Despite the fall Tuesday, Pfizer stock remains at a three-decade high. Shares broke out of a cup base with a buy point at 51.96 in mid-November. Since then, Pfizer stock has topped its 5% chase zone and approached a 20%-25% profit-taking zone, according to MarketSmith.com.

Shares also have a bullish Relative Strength Rating of 97, according to IBD Digital. This puts Pfizer stock in the leading 3% of all stocks in terms of 12-month performance.

Follow Allison Gatlin on Twitter at @IBD_AGatlin.


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