Asia-Pacific countries rush to buy Merck Kovid pill

Countries in the Asia-Pacific region this week became some of the first countries after the United States to secure a supply of mollupiravir, which drug company Merck says can reduce the risk of hospitalization and death from Covid-19. Can do.

Merck said in June that the United States had agreed to buy enough pills for 1.7 million treatments at a cost of $1.2 billion. This week, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea said they have reached agreements with the drugmaker to buy the pills, even though their regulatory agencies 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 had a slow introduction to vaccination against COVID-19, countries including Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea have now given more vaccine doses per capita than the United States. 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 costly hospital treatment.

A patient takes four capsules twice a day for five days, or a total of 40 tablets.

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Tuesday that his government has agreed to buy 300,000 courses, pending regulatory authorization, that could happen as early as 2022.

“Such vaccines and new treatments will boost our national plan to safely reopen Australia and keep Australia safely open,” he said in a statement.

Malaysia has struck a deal to secure 150,000 treatments, its Health Minister Khairi Jamaluddin said on Thursday. “This complements our successful vaccination rollout,” he said. Tweet, adding that the ministry will continue to procure more treatment options.

Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum’s office said on Wednesday that South Korea has received enough pills for more than 20,000 treatments and talks with the company are ongoing. The government has budgeted to procure 38,000 doses of the drug this year and next year together.

Singapore also secured a deal to buy the drug, Merck said in a statement on Wednesday, according to Reuters. The health ministry confirmed the deal to Reuters but did not disclose the number of pills, citing commercial sensitivity.

Merck did not immediately respond to requests for comment by telephone and email.

Merck has said it plans to seek emergency permission for the pills to be used in the United States. Initially, the drug may be available only to people at high risk, such as older people or people with comorbidities, although experts say the pills may eventually become more widely available.

White House officials have said people should get vaccinated, even if the Merck pill would cut death. “Vaccination is our best tool against COVID-19,” said White House coronavirus adviser Jeff Ziants.

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