Govt to finalise deal for anti-Covid pills 'in 2 weeks'

Govt to finalise deal for anti-Covid pills 'in 2 weeks'

An experimental Covid-19 treatment pill called molnupiravir being developed by Merck & Co Inc and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics LP. (Merck & Co Inc/Handout via Reuters)
An experimental Covid-19 treatment pill called molnupiravir being developed by Merck & Co Inc and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics LP. (Merck & Co Inc/Handout via Reuters)

Thailand will finalise the contract to purchase molnupiravir -- the world's first oral medication to treat Covid-19 -- in the next two weeks, the Public Health Ministry said, adding the first shipment of the drug could arrive as early as November.

The head of the Department of Medical Services, Somsak Akkasilp, said the ministry has pre-ordered enough doses to treat 200,000 patients. A patient with mild symptoms will be prescribed 40 pills to be consumed over five days, he explained.

However, when asked about the value of the contract, Dr Somsak said the information is confidential.

The drugs may arrive as early as November if they are approved by the United States' Food and Drug Administration (FDA) soon, he said, before adding they will have to be approved by Thailand's FDA too before they can be used to treat patients.

The director-general of the Department of Disease Control, Opas Karnkawinpong, said, generally speaking, drugs don't have a 100% efficacy rate and are more effective when administered in the early stages of an infection.

Since Merck & Co announced its development of molnupiravir, many countries have been scrambling to secure their supply of the medicine. Australia, Malaysia, South Korea and Taiwan, for instance, are also looking into purchasing the groundbreaking treatment.

The Philippines, meanwhile, has agreed to run a domestic trial of the drug in the hopes of getting more favourable procurement terms with the company.

The experimental antiviral pill is designed to introduce errors into the genetic code of the Covid-19 virus.

Merck is expecting to produce 10 million doses of molnupiravir by the end of this year. The company has agreed to supply the US government 1.7 million doses at a US$700 (23,600 baht) for a 5-day course.

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