After Pfizer vaccine, Philippines approves purchase of Merck's COVID-19 pill

WION Web Team
Manila, PhilippinesUpdated: Dec 23, 2021, 06:35 PM IST

An experimental COVID-19 treatment pill, called molnupiravir and being developed by Merck & Co Inc and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics LP Photograph:(AFP)

Story highlights

In its clinical trial, the Merck's anti-Covid pill cut the risk of hospitalisation or death from COVID-19 by about 30 per cent

Philippines has approved the purchase of Merck's anti-viral pill for COVID-19, called molnupiravir in its battle to rein in the more infectious Omicron variant.

The pill can be used for adult patients that are at risk of developing severe illness.

In its clinical trial, the experimental pill cut the risk of hospitalisation or death from COVID-19 by about 30 per cent.

The United States Food and Drug Administration said it is most effective when taken within the first few days of new symptoms.

It comes as the Southeast Asian nation on Monday launched a three-day vaccination drive targeting nine million people as young as 12 in an effort to accelerate the roll-out of jabs. Around one-third of the country's 110 million people are fully vaccinated.

The Philippines is trying to boost its arsenal of drugs to fight new variants. It had previously approved Pfizer's vaccine for children aged 5-11.

Merck's pill-based treatment, was backed for emergency use by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in mid-November, allowing individual EU countries to decide for themselves whether to use the pills even before being formally authorised.

"We are recommending the pill treatment because we believe that the benefits outweigh the harms for those patients who are most at risk of becoming severely ill with Covid-19," Kirstine Moll Harboe at the Danish Health Authority said in a statement.

Merck & Co Inc has signed deals to sell about 9 million courses of its experimental antiviral COVID-19 pills.

The Philippines has recorded more than 2.8 million infections since the start of the pandemic, including over 48,000 deaths.