Malaysia Explores Buying Merck’s COVID Drugs

Malaysia’s Health Minister said Saturday that he was in talks to procure an experimental antiviral drug developed by Merck & Co for the treatment of COVID-19.

Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said in a tweet that he had started negotiations for new medicines, referring to the news Reuters on Friday (1/10) that a pill developed by Merck could halve the chances of death or hospitalization for those most at risk of contracting severe COVID.

“As we move on to living with COVID, we will add new, innovative treatment options in addition to vaccines,” he said.

Merck and partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics plan to seek US emergency use authorization for the drug as soon as possible. The company will also make regulatory applications globally.

The pill molnupiravir, designed to insert errors into the virus’ genetic code, will be the first oral antiviral drug for COVID-19.

Current treatment options, including Gilead Sciences Inc’s antiviral remdesivir and the generic steroid dexamethasone, are only given after the patient has been hospitalized. [ah]

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