Following the recent announcement of the government’s decision to sign a deal to purchase an antiviral COVID-19 drug from Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said the pills will be provided to patients with severe symptoms at no cost. He confirmed that the molnupiravir pill will be available for free at public health facilities, and doctors will be able to prescribe them to patients with severe COVID-19 infections in Category Three, Four, or Five. “Even though our vaccination rate is very high… we bought the pill because there are still breakthrough infections,” said Khairy.
The Health Ministry has agreed to procure 150,000 courses of molnupiravir at an undisclosed price. For context, the pills were bought by the US government at US$1.2 billion (~RM5 billion) for 1.7 million courses, averaging US$700 (~RM2926) per course, with the regimen being two pills a day for five days.
While the antiviral has not been approved by health authorities just yet, recent Phase Three trial data showed promising results, with the risks of death and hospitalisation being cut in half for patients infected by the virus. Merck is already planning to submit an application for emergency-use authorisation to the US’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
As of 7 October, Malaysia is 0.9% away from reaching its 90% adult vaccination goal and reopening international borders. Health officials are strongly advising individuals who plan to travel to take the proper precautions and get tested regularly using self-test kits.