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Sunday, December 5, 2021

Malaysia in talks to procure Merck’s COVID-19 pills

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Malaysia is in talks to procure an experimental antiviral pill developed by Merck & Co for Covid-19 treatment, the country’s Health Minister said on Saturday (Oct 2).

Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said in a tweet that he has started negotiations to procure the new drugs, referring to a Reuters story on Friday that the pill developed by Merck could halve the chances of dying or being hospitalised for those most at risk of contracting severe Covid-19.

“As we transition to living with Covid-19, we will be adding new, innovative treatment options to our arsenal in addition to vaccines,” he said.

Merck and partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics are planning to seek United States emergency use authorisation for the pill as soon as possible and to make regulatory applications globally.

The pill, molnupiravir, designed to introduce errors into the genetic code of the virus, would be the first oral antiviral medication for Covid-19.

Current treatment options include Gilead Sciences’s infused antiviral remdesivir and generic steroid dexamethasone, both of which are generally given only once a patient has already been hospitalised.

There was not immediate response to a request to clarify if the ministry’s negotiations also included Gilead Sciences or Pfizer, which is developing an antiviral pill with Swiss drug maker Roche Holding.

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