Merck said on Thursday that revenues of its experimental COVID-19 medicine may total $5 billion to $7 billion by the end of next year, including up to $1 billion this year if the treatment is approved in the United States in December.

Merck recently released data showing that its medicine molnupiravir, developed in collaboration with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, can cut the risk of dying or being hospitalized among people who are most at risk of having severe COVID-19.

Outside advisers to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will gather in November to vote on the drug's approval. It will be the first oral antiviral treatment for COVID-19 if the FDA approves it.

Merck estimates sales of the medicine to be between $500 million and $1 billion this year, according to Chief Financial Officer Caroline Litchfield.

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Litchfield informed analysts on a post-earnings teleconference that sales profits will be split evenly with Ridgeback.

In June, the US manufacturer promised to offer the US government 1.7 million doses of molnupiravir for about $1.2 billion once it had been licensed by regulators.
Since its data was released earlier this month, Merck has made agreements with a number of countries. Merck also upped its full-year adjusted profit on Thursday, owing to robust demand for its blockbuster cancer medicine Keytruda.

In the third quarter, sales of Keytruda, which is on course to become the world's best-selling medicine by 2023, increased by 22%, easily outperforming analysts' expectations.

Merck forecasts adjusted profit to be between $5.65 and $5.70 per share for the entire year, up from $5.47 to $5.57 previously. Molnupiravir's potential contribution was not factored into the estimates.

Merck's stock jumped 1.5% to $82.76 before the opening bell after the firm reported a 55 % increase in third-quarter net income to $4.57 billion. Merck earned $1.75 per share after one-time items, surpassing predictions of $1.55.