Australia, Asian countries race ahead to buy new anti-Covid-19 medicine

Sydney, Australia, Oct 8 (EFE).- Australia and some Asian countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea are the first to join the United States for the acquisition of Molnupiravir, an experimental Covid-19 drug developed by the pharmaceutical Merck.

Despite not yet being approved by health authorities, Australia announced this week it had ordered 300,000 doses of Molnupiravir, which Merck says reduces the risk of hospitalization or death in Covid-19 patients by about 50 percent, according to results of a clinical study.

“If TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration) medical experts approve the use of this treatment, it will join other Covid-19 treatments, such as Sotrovimab and Remdesivir, already available to Australian doctors to help to treat people with Covid-19,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Tuesday.

The government also reported Monday the arrival in the country of 15,000 doses of Sotrovimab for the treatment of Covid-19, considering it reduces hospitalization and death rates by 79 percent of adults.

The second country that has reserved the most doses so far is Malaysia, with 150,000, as announced Thursday by the Health Ministry, to prepare for the next phase of the pandemic in which Covid-19 becomes an endemic disease.

Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said Thursday in parliament that the drug will be administered for free to patients who have had symptoms for at least five days or at the discretion of doctors, according to the Bernama news agency.

Although Malaysia has already vaccinated 90 percent of its adult population with the full dosage, the minister warned that infections continue to occur, so treatment is necessary as a complement to vaccines.

In South Korea, Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum announced Wednesday that the country had reserved some 20,000 doses of Merck’s experimental drug through an agreement signed with this pharmaceutical company, at a meeting of the government working group dedicated to the pandemic.

South Korea had previously said it is in talks with American company Pfizer and with Switzerland’s Roche, pharmaceutical companies that are also in the race to develop an antiviral pill against Covid-19 that facilitates the treatment of the disease.

In Thailand, Medical Services Department Director-General Somsak Akksilp said the country expects to start importing the drug in December or January, without specifying the quantity, although he said Merck must first obtain approval for emergency use in the US and Thailand.

According to the Straits Times newspaper, Singapore has also reached an agreement to purchase the drug for its alleged effectiveness against all variants of Covid-19, although the amount is not yet known. EFE


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