Gottlieb says 1.7M doses of Merck COVID-19 bought by US are 'not enough'

Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said on Sunday that the 1.7 million doses of Merck's antiviral COVID-19 treatment purchased by the U.S. earlier this year is "not enough.”

Gottlieb said on CBS's "Face the Nation" that “1.7 million doses, by virtue of the indication that this is probably going to be approved for, would cover us with one month of the Delta wave ... in the South."

"So, I think there could have been a little more forethought to trying to get more manufacturing in place and procuring more doses,” Gottlieb added.

He explained that the Strategic National Stockpile had between 50 million and 80 million courses of therapy in the event of a flu pandemic, for comparison.

Gottlieb added that rationing of the Merck treatment, which is being developed in partnership with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, would be likely.

“I would expect to see a scheme similar to what we have with the antibody drugs where this is going to be allocated to states,” Gottlieb told Brennan.

Earlier this summer, the Biden administration announced that it would be buying 1.7 million courses of pharmaceutical company Merck’s antiviral COVID-19 treatment, which is called molnupiravir. 

Merck said last week that phase three trials indicated that the oral treatment was effective in treating COVID-19. Merck said that trial data showed that 7.3 percent of those who received the treatment were hospitalized within 29 days compared to 14.1 percent of people who were given a placebo and were either hospitalized or died by the end of the trial.

--Updated on Oct. 6 at 1:24 p.m.