Merck & Co delivered robust third-quarter (Q3) results on Thursday, surpassing market projections, fueled by a surge in demand for its COVID-19 treatment, primarily from the Japanese market. The pharmaceutical giant also revised its annual sales forecast for the therapy upwards.
Sales of molnupiravir, marketed as Lagevrio, the antiviral pill, skyrocketed by an impressive 47% to $640 million in the quarter, far outpacing Wall Street estimates of $120 million, according to a report from the London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG). In the early stages of the pandemic, molnupiravir garnered praise as a potential game-changer when treatment options were limited. However, Pfizer’s rival treatment, Paxlovid, boasting more substantial efficacy data, took center stage, overshadowing Merck’s offering. Paxlovid now commands a dominant position in the out-of-hospital COVID-treatment market in both the U.S. and the EU, with regulatory bodies in these regions advising against the use of Merck’s drug.
Nevertheless, Merck reported a commanding presence in Japan, positioning its drug as a frontrunner in the market. This success prompted Merck to revise its full-year sales forecast for Lagevrio to $1.3 billion. Alongside the impressive performance of its COVID-19 treatment, Merck’s flagship cancer immunotherapy, Keytruda, experienced a remarkable surge, amassing $6.34 billion in the third quarter, surpassing analysts’ projections of $6.22 billion.
In contrast, sales of Merck’s vaccine, Gardasil, designed to prevent cancers linked to human papillomavirus (HPV), experienced a 13% increase but fell short of analysts’ expectations, recording sales of $2.59 billion compared to a forecasted $2.69 billion. Wells Fargo analyst Mohit Bansal noted that investors are eager to witness stronger sales growth from the vaccine to align with expectations.
Merck’s stock prices showed a 1% increase in premarket trading, indicating positive market sentiment following the impressive performance. The pharmaceutical powerhouse also raised the bar for its 2023 sales, now anticipating figures between $59.7 to $60.2 billion, as opposed to the previous forecast of $58.6 to $59.6 billion. The company’s quarterly sales reached $15.96 billion, surpassing the average analyst estimate of $15.3 billion. Additionally, Merck reported an adjusted profit of $2.13 per share, markedly surpassing the anticipated $1.95 per share.
In conclusion, the Q3 results of Merck showcase a remarkable triumph, driven by the exceptional performance of its COVID-19 treatment and bolstered by strong showings in other key therapeutic areas.