Covid-19 roundup: Singapore and South Korea are the latest to ink supply deals for breakthrough Covid-19 pill
Another country in Asia has landed a supply and purchase agreement with Merck for its promising oral Covid-19 antiviral drug.
Singapore signed on for a supply of molnupiravir, which would be the first oral antiviral medication to treat Covid-19, if approved. The announcement comes while the country is going through its most severe outbreak: 3,486 people tested positive on Tuesday alone, despite 80% of its people being vaccinated.
Last week, Merck announced that the drug reduced the chance that a newly diagnosed Covid-19 patient would die by about 50%, providing the potential for a breakthrough. If it’s cleared by the FDA, the drug would give doctors an easily administered tool to keep new patients from developing serious illness too.
Thailand, South Korea, Taiwan and Malaysia have all been in talks to purchase the drug, while government officials in the Philippines are hoping that clinical trials being conducted in the country will give it a push toward access. Australia has also bought the pill, and an agreement was reached with India back in April. Earlier this year, Merck entered an agreement with the US to supply 1.7 million courses of the drug. It also has already announced that it has entered into non-exclusive voluntary licensing agreements with generic manufacturers to enable access to more than 100 low- and middle-income countries.
Another 20,000 courses of Merck’s experimental Covid-19 pill have been secured in South Korea, Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum announced. The South Korean government has set aside 36.2 billion won — $30.31 million — for oral antiviral pills to treat Covid-19.
“We already have secured a budget enough for treatment of around 40,000 people and have signed a pre-purchase deal for 20,000 courses,” Kim said in a meeting on Wednesday.
Merck has said it can produce 10 million courses of treatment this year.