Malaysia’s Health Ministry said Thursday that its country has reached an agreement with US drugmaker Merck & Co to buy 150,000 experimental antiviral pills. The deal sees Malaysia join other Asian countries in securing supplies quickly.
According to clinical data, Molnupiravir – which would be the first oral antiviral drug for COVID-19 if approved for use – could halve the chances of death or hospitalization for those most at risk of contracting severe COVID-19.
The clinical data triggered an increase in demand for the drug in Asia. South Korea, Singapore and Australia announced similar deals to buy Merck pills this week. Taiwan and Thailand are also in talks to buy it.
Malaysian Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said the government had signed a letter of agreement for the purchase on Thursday (7/10).
“This decision was made as we prepare for the transition to the endemic phase, where we can coexist with the virus by adding new innovative treatments as a ‘weapon’ to fight COVID-19, in addition to vaccinations and other public health measures,” Khairy said in a statement. .
Malaysia recorded nearly 2.3 million COVID-19 infections, the third-highest in Southeast Asia, but has gradually lifted restrictions on movement in recent weeks as the number of new cases declines amid an upgraded vaccination programme.
About 64 percent of Malaysia’s 32 million population are now fully vaccinated, including 88 percent of adults. [ah/rs]