Merck's new Covid-19 treatment will not be affordable for most Americans.
Merck is reportedly charging 40 times the cost to make the antiviral Covid-19 drug, molnupiravir.
Molnupiravir costs $17.74 to produce - but Merck is charging $712 for a 5-day course of treatment, according to The Intercept.
Molnupiravir, originally developed to treat encephalitis in horses and zebras, was licensed from Emory University in 2020. The worldwide rights were sold to Merck for an undisclosed sum.
The U.S. government reportedly funded development of the drug by Emory University for $10 million between 2013 and 2015.
Merck is expected to earn $7 billion in revenue from the sales of the drug.
According to Quartz, Good government advocates point out that "because federal agencies spent at least $29 million on the drug's development, the government has the obligation to ensure that the medicine is affordable."
Dr. Dzintars Gotham of King's College Hospital suggested Merck can still turn a decent profit if they priced molnupiravir at $19.99.
"Offering someone a $700 treatment when they don't yet feel that ill is going to mean that a lot of people are not going to take it," he said.
Melissa Barber, a doctoral candidate at the Harvard School of Public Health, said:
"If you can't afford medicine because it's 1,000 times more than you can afford, or because it's 100 times more than you can afford, it doesn't matter. Those are both bad."