Merck stock popped Monday after its Ridgeback Biotherapeutics-partnered Covid-19 treatment showed promise in an interim analysis of a Phase 2 test.
The companies are testing an oral antiviral treatment known as molnupiravir. After five days of treatment, none of the molnupiravir-treated patients tested positive for Covid-19. But nearly a quarter, 24%, of those who received a placebo were still positive for Covid, Merck (MRK) and Ridgeback said.
“At a time where there is unmet need for antiviral treatments against (the virus known as) SARS-CoV-2, we are encouraged by these preliminary data,” Ridgeback Chief Medical Officer Dr. Wendy Painter said in a written statement.
On today’s stock market, Merck stock jumped 1.4% to 74.17.
Merck Stock Rises On Covid Drug Study
The companies studied their treatment in 202 non-hospitalized adults who showed symptoms of Covid-19. Of those, just 78 showed detectable levels of the virus in testing at the beginning of the study. That included 47 who received molnupiravir and 25 on the placebo.
By day five, none of the molnupiravir patients had detectable levels of the virus. But six out of the 25-person placebo group still tested positive for Covid-19.
The oral antiviral treatment was safe. Of the four serious adverse events reported, none were related to molnupiravir, Merck and Ridgeback said.
Merck stock has mostly trended down this year after the company scrapped development of two “inferior” coronavirus vaccines. So, the promise for an oral Covid treatment gave Merck shares a lift.
Poorly Rated Pharma Stock
The poor track record shows up in shares’ Relative Strength Rating. Merck stock has an RS Rating of 6 out of a best-possible 99. This means Merck stock underperformed 94% of all stocks in terms of performance over the past 12 months.
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Follow Allison Gatlin on Twitter at @IBD_AGatlin.
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