France has canceled its order for Merck’s new Covid-19 antiviral treatment molnupiravir due to its weak performance in trials, and ordered Pfizer’s Paxlovid instead, Health Minister Olivier Veran said on Wednesday.
“With molnupiravir, we had to cancel the order,” Veran told BFMTV, explaining that the latest trial results of Merck’s treatment were “not good.” The cancellation of the 50,000 doses of the drug has incurred no costs to France, he stressed.
Instead of Merck’s pills, France has ordered a competing treatment, Pfizer’s Paxlovid, which Veran described as “extremely promising” in reducing the risk of developing serious forms of Covid-19. The minister said that the drug, which is awaiting approval by the European Medicines Agency, would become available by the end of January.
He did not specify how many doses of Paxlovid had been ordered.
Merck earlier reported that its pills reduced the risk of hospitalization and deaths by 30%, which is significantly less impressive than the 89% reduction reported by Pfizer.
France is the first country to announce cancellation of its Merck order. The UK and German governments are among those that have already bought doses of the drug.