Merck’s COVID-19 Pill Rushes Thailand Procurement

Thailand is the latest Asian nation that is rushing to buy Merck's COVID-19 pill.
Thailand is the latest Asian nation that is rushing to buy Merck's COVID-19. (Mikhail Denishchenko/PublicDomainPictures)pill.

Thailand is the latest Asian nation that is rushing to buy Merck’s COVID-19 pill. The government is already discussing the purchase with Merck & Co to procure 200,000 of the antiviral medicine called molnupiravir.

This experimental and orally-taken pill initiates errors in the virus’ genetic code. Initially, Merck developed it to cure influenza. The drug company claims that molnupiravir is also effective against Coronavirus variants, including delta, mu, and gamma. It will be the first oral antiviral medication for COVID-19.

The said antiviral drug becomes in demand because of the interim clinical trial data released on October 1. According to the data, Merck’s COVID-19 pill can reduce the possibility of hospitalization or death by 50% of patients suffering from the disease.

Several other Asian countries want to ensure supplies early because of the tight vaccine rollouts this year. It put them behind richer countries that purchased hundreds of millions of doses.

Malaysia, Taiwan, and South Korea are also in talks to buy Merck’s COVID-19 pill. The Philippines, on the other hand, is already conducting a clinical test with hopes of allowing access to the treatment.

Rushing to Buy Merck’s COVID-19 Pill

Somsak Akksilp said that the country is negotiating with Merck and is expecting its completion by this week. The director-general of the Department of Medical Services added that they scheduled 200,000 Merck’s COVID-19 pills.

Thailand is expecting the pills’ arrival in December. However, the accord is subject to the US Food and Drug Administration and the Thai regulator’s approval of the medicine.

Countries outside the US and Canada know Merck by the moniker MSD. The pharmaceutical company claimed it could produce 10 million molnupiravir courses at US$700 per course.

There are other antiviral medicines available today, such as remdesivir and monoclonal antibodies. However, the administration requires intravenous (IV), which means inserting a needle or tube into a patient’s vein.

Interim Results of Merck’s COVID-19 Pill

Based on Merck’s COVID-19 pill interim result, people who contracted the disease have fewer chances of death or hospitalization. A person who acquired the condition needs to take four molnupiravir twice a day for five days.

“Having a pill that would be easy for people to take at home would be terrific. If this was available through a drug store, more people could get it,” says Yale Medicine infectious diseases specialist Albert Shaw.

How Does Molnupiravir Work?

Molnupiravir works by establishing RNA-like building blocks into the virus’ genomes while it proliferates. It creates countless mutations, obstructs replication, and eradicates the virus. As an antiviral drug, it disrupts the duplication process of the virus, so the illness does not forge ahead.

It is crucial to keep the virus from increasing because it makes the patient sicker. Patients die because their cells that fight the virus become weaker and weaker.

Because of the promising results, researchers stopped the worldwide research. About the interim analysis in 775 people, Merck is considering applying for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to the US FDA. It includes applying as well to regulatory bodies in other countries.

The Applicability of Molnupiravir

As of the moment, it is not yet clear who can take molnupiravir. The study only focused on sick people and unvaccinated people. It includes people over 60 years old, obese, suffer from pulmonary disease, and have heart conditions.

In case the FDA didn’t authorize Merck’s COVID-19 pill, a limitation to its reach is possible. The capability of molnupiravir is a breakthrough that can cure deadly diseases such as the pandemic virus. However, it is not preventive compare to a vaccine.