FILE PHOTO: A COVID-19 treatment pill, called molnupiravir, developed by Merck & Co Inc and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics LP, is seen in this undated handout photo released by Merck & Co Inc and obtained by Reuters on October 26, 2021. Merck & Co Inc/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY/File Photo

The prices of drugs used to treat Covid-19 for those at risk of serious illness are “reasonably aligned” with how much they help patients, according to a draft report from drug-pricing research organisation the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER).

The report assessed Pfizer’s Paxlovid and Merck & Co’s molnupiravir — both recently authorized antiviral pills — as well as sotrovimab, an intravenous monoclonal antibody drug developed by GlaxoSmithKline and Vir Biotechnology.

The three treatments — approved on an emergency basis for people with mild-to-moderate Covid-19 deemed at risk of progressing to serious illness — have been purchased by the US government and are being distributed free-of-charge to healthcare providers.

The US government has paid around $530 for a 5-day course of Paxlovid, $700 per five-day course of molnupiravir, and $2,100 for a course of sotrovimab — the lone available antibody treatment shown to work against the now dominant Omicron variant of the virus.

In clinical trials, ICER said molnupiravir cut hospitalisation rates for high-risk patients by 30 per cent, compared with 88 per cent risk reduction for Paxlovid and 79 per cent for sotrovimab.

“Right now the alignment of the price and benefits look reasonable,” ICER president Steve Pearson said.

The Pfizer and Merck drugs are meant to be taken at home, while GSK’s antibody is administered in hospital or infusion centres.

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