Asia-Pacific countries rush to buy Merck Covid pill

Countries in the Asia-Pacific region this week became among the first after the United States to secure their supplies of molnupiravir ,...


Countries in the Asia-Pacific region this week became among the first after the United States to secure their supplies of molnupiravir, the pill which, according to pharmaceutical company Merck, could halve the risk of hospitalization and death from Covid-19.

Merck said in June that the United States had agreed to buy enough pills to 1.7 million treatments, at a cost of $ 1.2 billion. This week, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea said they have made deals with the drug maker to purchase the pills, even though their regulators have yet to approve the drug. Thailand and Taiwan are also in talks with Merck to buy them, Reuters reported.

While many countries in Asia have slowly started to vaccinate against Covid-19, countries like Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea have now administered more doses of vaccine than the United States per capita. Merck’s treatment, the first oral antiviral drug that can be taken at home, is expected to help limit the impact of future outbreaks and reduce the need for expensive hospital treatment.

A patient would take four capsules twice a day for five days, or 40 tablets in total.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Tuesday his government had agreed to buy 300,000 courses, awaiting regulatory authorization, which could take place in early 2022.

“Vaccines and new treatments like this will strengthen our national plan to reopen Australia safely and keep Australia open safely,” he said in a statement.

Malaysia has reached an agreement to guarantee 150,000 treatments, its health minister, Khairy Jamaluddin said Thursday. “This complements our successful rollout of immunization,” he said in an Tweeter, adding that the ministry would continue to buy more treatment options.

South Korea got enough pills for over 20,000 treatments and are continuing talks with the company to get more, Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum’s office said on Wednesday. The government plans to purchase 38,000 doses of the drug in total this year and next, he said in a statement.

Singapore has also reached an agreement to buy the drug, Merck said in a statement Wednesday, according to Reuters. The Health Department confirmed the deal to Reuters but did not disclose the number of pills citing trade sensitivities.

Merck did not immediately respond to a request for comment by phone and email.

Merck has announced plans to seek emergency clearance for the pills to be used in the United States. Initially, the drug might be available only to people considered to be at high risk, such as the elderly or those with co-morbidities, although experts say the pills could eventually become more widely available.

White House officials have said people should get vaccinated even if Merck’s pill reduces the number of deaths. Vaccination “remains by far our best tool against Covid-19,” said Jeff Zients, the White House coronavirus adviser.



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Newsrust - US Top News: Asia-Pacific countries rush to buy Merck Covid pill
Asia-Pacific countries rush to buy Merck Covid pill
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