The health ministry today signed a letter of undertaking for 150,000 complete patient courses of Merck’s experimental oral Covid-19 antiviral drug Molnupiravir for the treatment of those who contract the highly contagious virus.
Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said the agreement inked with Merck Sharp & Dohme was part of preparations to transition to the endemic phase of Covid-19.
“It will increase our arsenal of innovative new treatments in our battle against Covid-19, apart from vaccination and other public health measures,” he said.
In a statement, he cited data from studies by Merck indicating that the drug could reduce by about 50% the likelihood of hospitalisation.
“It is also effective against more virulent strains such as Gamma, Delta and Mu,” he said.
However, he said that the drug, while effective, did not mean that vaccines were no longer needed.
“The role of vaccines is to reduce infections and prevent more severe cases,” he said.
“Molnupiravir does not prevent the spread of infection. It is only beneficial for those who have already been infected.
“We need both to reduce the patient burden of Covid-19 and to have a bigger impact in efforts to prevent and control the spread of the virus.”
Molnupiravir is designed to introduce errors into the genetic code of the coronavirus and would be the first oral antiviral medication for Covid-19.