The U.S. pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. says it is in early discussions with the federal government to sell it stocks of the company’s new COVID-19 drug.

Merck announced on Oct. 1 that it had developed a pill that can cut the risk of hospitalization or death by half in people with mild to moderate cases of COVID-19.

The company says its new pill, called molnupiravir, can disrupt the genetic material of the virus before it begins duplicating. It is not believed to be effective in severe cases.

“We are in active discussions with the government of Canada to basically look at securing an agreement to secure supply for molnupiravir for Canada,” said Jennifer Chan, Merck Canada’s vice-president of policy and government affairs.

WATCH | Merck Canada vice-president Jennifer Chan speaks to CBC’s Power & Politics about the company’s new COVID-19 drug

Merck Canada says it’s in discussions with the federal government to come to deal to secure supply of its COVID-19 pillMerck Canada vice-president Jennifer Chan joins Power & Politics to discuss molnupiravir, which if approved could be the first pill to treat COVID-19. 8:19

While the company says the pill can be an effective tool to help COVID-19 patients, no data about the drug have been released publicly or peer-reviewed by other scientists.

The company has submitted its preliminary data to Health Canada, among other national health agencies, but it has not been approved for use.

The U.S., which is also in the process of reviewing the drug, has reached a deal to buy 1.7 million courses of molnupiravir at a cost of approximately $866 each.

Chan said Merck will sell the drug internationally based on a “global tiered pricing strategy,” which will adjust prices for the drug based on a nation’s ability to pay.

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